The third-level grants body Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) has made the first payments to 43,000 applicants, 4,000 more than this time last year.
With more than 100,000 applications received for the current college year, it has approved funding for 54,000 of them so far, but around 11,000 have yet to provide their bank details or have their registration confirmed by colleges to allow the first instalment to be paid.
From next year, it is planned that students who qualify for grants will receive four payments before Christmas instead of the usual three, and five monthly instalments will be paid in the second semester.
The move, announced in last month’s budget by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, should help overturn the financial difficulties recipients face in the first term because of rental deposits and other up-front costs.
It is also designed to recognise the earlier start to the academic year at many third-level institutions, some of which resume classes as in the first or second weeks of September in recent years.
Such changes are being facilitated by improvements in SUSI’s operations after major difficulties with communications, and delays in the processing and payment of grants, when it began taking over the running of the system two years ago.
This time last year, there were more than 90,000 applications to Susi, but its workload has increased annually as the renewal of grants for all recipients from 2012 onward is added each year. Around 73,000 grants are expected to be awarded this year, including recipients who will have their €2,750 student contribution paid for them, as well as those getting maintenance supports ranging from €300 to almost €6,000 for students from homes with the lowest incomes.
Susi is also awaiting documents in support of their applications from 10,000 students, who are being urged to return them as soon as possible so assessment of their claims can be completed.
“The processing of applications for 2014/15 is going extremely well,” said Susi head of communications and customer service Graham Doyle. “I would also remind those students who have yet to submit their bank details to do so to ensure that they can be paid.”
While applications continue to be processed by SUSI, which is operated through City of Dublin Education and Training Board, applications close for this college year next Thursday. This deadline also applies to anyone who started the application process online but has not yet completed it.
Only a small proportion of the estimated half of third-level students who receive a grant are still having their renewals handled by councils and ETBs, from which Susi has taken over student support systems.
The payment of more instalments during the first term from next year will be facilitated by a slight delay in the payment by Susi of the student contribution for grant recipients to their colleges, meaning part of those fee transfers are accounted for in the following year’s budget for the Department of Education.
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