A record 30,000 third-level students were due to receive their first grant payments from Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) yesterday.
The payments totalling €9.6m will be of particular help to those who have had to pay rent deposits and other up-front costs at the beginning of term. The figure compares favourably to the 26,500 who got paid in Susi’s first run of payments worth €8.5m in 2015, the first year that student grants were paid in September.
The agency, part of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, has received 102,000 applications so far this year. While nearly 43,000 are renewal cases, people who were receiving support from Susi in the last college year, more than 59,000 are from new applicants for 2016.
Those which were received up to July are prioritised in the processing system, after applications opened in April.
More than 75,500 have so far been finalised, with 64,500 students getting a positive decision in terms of having their student contribution paid, or half-paid on their behalf, and in most cases also receiving a maintenance payment to assist with living costs.
Those awarded some level of Susi support include over 27,000 who sought assistance through Susi for the first time this year. But 8,300 first-time applicants and 900 grant renewals were refused.
Less than half the 64,500 successful applicants were paid yesterday, as Susi had not received verification of the remaining students’ registration from their colleges in time for payments to go through. But many will receive first payments soon, as weekly bank transfers will be made up to Christmas for those who miss out on this or subsequent monthly pay runs. The 30,000 recipients yesterday did not include an unknown number whose family income means they do not get a grant, but still have the €3,000 student fee or half the amount paid on their behalf by Susi.
Small numbers also receive maintenance for attendance at colleges in the EU. Susi will begin making maintenance payments to students on Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses from October 21. These recipients also have their €200 course fee paid for them by the grants agency.
Grant amounts vary from €350 to almost €6,000 for the year, depending on family incomes and distance from home to college.
While prompt payments will be welcomed, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) says the level of support remains inadequate for the rising costs of accommodation and other expenses.
In a submission to Education Minister Richard Bruton ahead of Budget 2017 next month, it is seeking increases in the amounts paid and the restoration of grant support for postgraduate students.
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