Revealed: We spoke to the students given ‘academic sanctions’ by Liverpool Uni for not making their rent
One student was given sanctions on three separate occasions
After revealing how UoL students are being given "academic sanctions", such as being banned from the library or locked out of their uni email, if they fail to meet rent payments, many students have expressed their horror at how the system works. However, is it just as bad when you've actually been through it yourself?
Myself, alongside many other students, are the people behind the statistic that "1 in 6 students in 2017/18 were placed under academic sanctions after being unable to pay their rent in time", and have had this nightmare become reality.
In my case, living in Crown Place for the 2016/17 academic year, I was shocked at the way the uni handled the situation. I only realised there was an issue when I wasn't allowed into the SJ during February, when payments would have been taken over a month before, in January.
Although it was an issue with the card the money would be taken from, which could be easily sorted, there was no checking if there was a deeper issue – that maybe I was in financial difficulty. Instead, they sent me one email, which I could not access until after the issue was sorted anyway, and applied these sanctions without my knowledge. This was definitely not ideal for a first year student reliant on Eduroam as their only source of WiFi.
Amy, who lived in Greenbank, also received academic sanctions, she told The Liverpool Tab: "I had library access and Blackboard suspended during a stressful time of exams and deadlines. This was due to me waiting for Student Finance to means test my family so they could increase my maintenance loan.
"The university were very aware of this after a number of conversations with numerous staff, as well as them speaking with my parents. I even tried to compromise and offered to pay half the rent with the amount of loan I currently had until Student Finance increased my loan, and then I would pay the rest of the amount, especially as I was falling behind on work. However, they would not allow this."
Meg, a former Crown Place resident, told us what happened to her: "The first time, my loan came in late (SFE lost my letter twice), meaning I didn't get it until November when rent was due in October. I let the uni know and did a single transaction later, only for them to still lock me out of everything. I went to student services and told me it was because I didn't set up a direct debit/standing order?
"The second time, I had my bag stolen on a night-out with my key card in. It was only a week until summer exams so I figured they weren't that desperate for a tenner to replace it. Anyway turns out I was wrong and the same thing happened yet again until I paid them.
"The third time was probably a glitch as it was during summer. I was checking for exam results but wasn't allowed to – it was reactivated a couple of days later, not really sure why it happened though."
Josephine went through similar circumstances whilst living at Tudor Close, telling us: "I was told several times that I would be able to pay my single semester rent in instalments as my time abroad had sucked all my money. First week back however, I was blocked from everything, so rang student services and was informed I hadn't paid rent, even though I paid the instalment planned.
"I was then told I had to pay the full amount in the next four days or I could be suspended from uni. I ended up breaking down over the phone and that's what it took for the woman to give me more time to find the money to pay for it. I eventually got it sorted, but it was unbelievably stressful and stopped me from doing work for two weeks."
These sanctions have even been applied beyond accommodation, with one former student, who wished to remain anonymous, telling us: "While I was a student, I had a child in my second year of undergraduate, which was great, but very stressful and costly. The university has a nursery affiliated with it, and there were times where I was late with nursery fees.
"As you can guess, I was blocked from Vital, library resources, my grades etc. At the time I didn't think much of it, but given what's come out, I wonder that this may not be entirely legal, and other unis don't tend to do it. Seems pretty bad that students with children (who often need more support) could be penalised in that way."
Billy Liggins, a Law graduate who lived in Crown Place in 2016, had his exam results withheld for three days because he had not yet paid the fine for getting his keys locked in his room. His girlfriend, Ella Fitzgerald, told us this happened to a number of their friends and that it was "quite common" for this to happen to people living in Crown Place.
Alongside The Guild's "Cut The Rent" campaign, they will also be launching a survey of halls of residence students this week in order to find out more about their experience paying rent in university accommodation. The survey will be seeking responses from more than 4,000 students and will be open until the end of February.
Have you been threatened with academic sanctions due to late or partial rent payments or other unpaid debts? If so, please confidentially message us on Facebook or email [email protected]