Student grant costs vary widely

THE cost of processing student grants ranges from just €70 to almost €500 per application, according to figures from nearly half of the grant-awarding bodies.

University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) received data from 25 city and county councils in relation to the number of applications and the total administration cost associated with them last year.

The mid-range cost was around €120 per applicant at Carlow, Kerry and South Dublin county councils, but the work was done for an average of €70.51 per grant form by Westmeath County Council. The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

At the other end of the scale, North Tipperary County Council spent €254,000 processing 526 applications — or an average of €484.25 for each one.

A council spokesperson said the costs it outlined included €98,000 for the equivalent of 2.2 staff and the remaining €156,714 was based on proportionate use of council IT equipment, office space, financial transactions and other costs associated with the grants system. However, it is unclear if other councils used the same financial model to calculate the administration costs provided to UCDSU.

The union’s president Gary Redmond said huge savings could be made by centralising the grants process. “We need a complete overhaul of the grants system immediately. It’s in the best interests of not only students, but the taxpayer too,” Mr Redmond said.

The grants systems are handled by more than 60 local authorities and Vocational Education Committees (VECs) but were to be handed over to the VECs under the bill introduced by former education minister Mary Hanafin last year.

However, the law has not been progressed in the Oireachtas since last March, with Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe telling the Dáil last week that legal obstacles and administrative costs were delaying the bill.


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