Around four of every five first-year students expected to get a grant this year are already being paid or have had their payments approved, latest figures reveal.
Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) said 32,000 of over 52,000 people awarded grants for this academic year were first-time applicants, while more than 20,000 were people who renewed grants, having qualified last year.
Of the 60,000 students SUSI expects to award grants to this year, 40,000 are new applicants.
All but 4,000 of the total approved grant recipients have got their first monthly payment, with confirmation of attendance awaited from their colleges before grants are paid.
The organisation, part of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, said it is two months ahead compared to this time last year in finalising applications, thanks to improvements to its system.
While more than a quarter of first-time applicants had not had their applications fully processed earlier this week, SUSI said it has processed 10,000 late applications that arrived between early August and Nov 20. Just 4% of grant renewal claims have not yet been completed.
“Students are urged to send in all requested documents as quickly as possible so that SUSI can move to a final decision on their applications. Once these documents are sent in complete, students will have to wait no longer than two weeks to get a final decision on their grant,” a statement said.
The grant-awarding body is awaiting documents and additional information from 11,000 students, around 2,000 of whom are not expected to proceed with their applications. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn told Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, in response to a Dáil question this week, that almost 17,000 new applications and 2,722 renewal applications have been refused or cancelled.
SUSI and the minister came in for severe criticism for delays and communication problems during its first year of operation, having been set up to eventually take over the handling of all grant applications.
Mr Quinn had to approve an additional €3 million for a Student Assistance Fund last January, as colleges administering the €8m came under pressure from students waiting for grants to be processed or paid.
Students who were receiving grants from local councils or VECs (now the 16 Education and Training Boards) before 2012 continue to have their renewals handled by those authorities.
The changes introduced by SUSI for the current college year included accepting applications from mid-May, a month earlier than in 2012.
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