Some of the changes to the Susi grants system this year include greater use of technology to calculate how far they travel to college and the resultant level of payment they are due.
The use of Eircode to indicate home addresses is being used for the first time this year.
As students enter their address when registering their details, a list of addresses begins to appear on the screen.
“Having chosen the right one, then the Eircode will populate in the form for the student. If it’s in a rural townland and the applicant doesn’t know the details, the application form can bring them to ‘Eircode Finders’ where he or she can locate his or her home and corresponding Eircode,” said Susi’s Graham Doyle.
While it is not mandatory to enter an Eircode when applying, 92% of those who have applied so far this year have done so.
The facility allows an automatic calculation of each applicant’s distance from the college which they plan to attend, a measurement whose accuracy can be crucial in determining rates of payment for those who qualify for a grant.
“In previous years, students input their details and our own assessors had to calculate the distance through Google Maps software. This year, while we still use Google Maps, the use of Eircode has enabled us to programme our systems and the calculated distance now comes in from the application form and removes the need for manual intervention,” Mr Doyle said.
Susi estimates that at least two minutes work can be saved on each application by this new approach. As well as time savings, this could save the equivalent cost of a week’s wages of at least one full-time employee of Susi or its sub-contracted partners, if only applied to those 80,000-plus applications which qualify for some form of support.
One of the more controversial cutbacks in the grants system of recent years has been the increase in the distance a student must live from college in order to receive a higher payment.
The previous threshold for the non-adjacent grant rate was a distance of 24km from home to college, but that was increased from 2011 to 45km. This has saved around €30m a year, as students whose home is within the radius now set at 45km from their college only get 40% of what is paid to those with a greater distance to travel.
For example, a student travelling more than 45km from college whose family household income is less than €40,970 is entitled to a grant of €2,270, which is 75% of the full grant figure. But that is 2.5 times the €910 payable for a student from the same background but who attends a college less than 45km from home.
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