Almost two-thirds of around 60,000 college students expected to qualify for grants have got their first payment from Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi).
Following improvements in communication and information-sharing, 39,000 applicants have been paid over the past fortnight and another 4,000 should get their grant once their registration in college is confirmed and they provide Susi with their bank details.
The 43,000 either paid or approved for a grant compares with just 6,000 a year ago, when major teething problems at Susi led to lengthy delays for thousands of students. But moves taken by the body, which is part of City of Dublin Education and Training Board, to verify applicant details with Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection, Central Applications Office and other agencies have helped speed up processing times.
Susi said it is still awaiting documents from 18,000 applicants, 7,000 of whom have not returned documents asked for at least a month ago, before claims can go for a final decision.
The opening of applications a month earlier than last year, additional management and general staff, and increased consultation with other stakeholders have also been factors in improved processing times. Union of Students in Ireland (USI) vice-president Cat O’Driscoll said the use of feedback from themselves and others has helped make this year’s experience of Susi much better.
“From talking to our regional officers, there are no major issues. The big thing this year has been the need for students to send in far less paperwork,” she said.
“There are a few technical problems but they are only affecting small groups, like an issue for some students who are doing an add-on year to previous courses, something Susi is working on,” Ms O’Driscoll said.
She said large numbers of students are having difficulties with complicated requirements of the grant scheme, outside the control of Susi or individual students, about proving residency status, or that they are living independently of their families. She suggested anyone having problems should let their local students’ union know and use Susi’s online tracker system to check the status of their application.
Around 40,000 first-time applicants are expected to get a college grant this year, and they make up 20,000 of those already paid their first instalment. All but 1,000 of the 20,000 renewal students have now got their first payment.
Of more than 90,000 to apply for a grant, 67,000 are first-time applicants and 23,500 had one from Susi last year.
Around 10,000 applied after the Aug 5 deadline, meaning they had to wait for other claims to be finalised before being dealt with. Susi has cancelled 5,000 applications and 11,500 students have been refused.
Students who were already getting grants before last year continue to deal with local councils or education and training boards, but Susi will eventually handle all applications.
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