Student grant clinics have been set up in colleges as thousands still await their grants to be paid or appeals to be finalised.
The move, in conjunction with local student unions, is being organised by Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), which faces an independent review after the huge backlogs and delays that hit applicants in its first year of operation.
About 35,000 first-year students are expected to benefit under the grant system, but just 23,454 had been paid up to Wednesday, with 2,520 due a grant once Susi gets their bank details. Another 6,833 who did not qualify for a grant have had some or all of their €2,500 student fees paid by Susi.
City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC) operates Susi after being picked by the Dep-artment of Education to take over the €336m-a-year grant system. It has only handled first-time recipients this year but will take over all grants from 66 councils and other VECs over the next two years.
With thousands of students asked to send in documents multiple times and major errors claimed in relation to grant decisions, the system has been under severe public scrutiny since November.
CDVEC will decide soon who will carry out a review, but numerous changes are already planned in how the system works for this year’s first-time applicants.
Susi said 7,744 applications still need documents to be supplied before they can be assessed and it is phoning each of these students to help them complete the process or establish if they are still seeking a grant.
Of 4,246 decisions that have been appealed, Susi said 2,684 have been successful.
“This figure is high due to the fact that many applicants elected to use the appeals process to notify changes in circumstances to increase their grant award,” said a spokesperson.
The average time for appeals to be processed is 21 days, but Susi acknowledged that some human error has meant cases being sent unnecessarily to appeal.
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