About 8,000 students fewer than promised look set to get their college grants before the end-of-year deadline set three weeks ago.
The agency whose systems have been blamed for delays gave a commitment last month that 33,000 students would be approved for payments by the end of December.
Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) insists it has the capacity to meet that target, but says students are not sending all the necessary documents to have their applications finalised.
It has paid just 8,800 students their grants but at least 35,000 first-time applicants are expected to be eligible for financial support.
Another 12,000 have been approved for grants or to have their college fees paid, but Susi says it is awaiting bank details, or confirmation of enrolment from colleges, in respect of about half of them.
With these 20,859 awards finalised, and at least one-in-four applications assessed in recent weeks being refused, it appears the most awards that can be made before Christmas will be 25,000.
Susi has almost 5,500 application packs on hand and says it is confident they will be processed by next week.
“We have the capacity to be on target, provided the documentation packs are submitted and are complete,” said a spokesperson.
TDs and senators last month outlined numerous cases to officials of Susi — a unit of City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee — of students and their families being sent multiple requests for documents they said were already supplied.
Abtran, the private company to which this work has been outsourced, has been given 90 extra temporary staff, bringing its numbers working for Susi to 149.
Susi itself has 33 permanent staff and 20 of its 63 temporary seasonal staff were recruited in the past two months as the difficulties emerged.
A spokesman for Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, told the Irish Examiner yesterday that Susi and Abtran had been given all the resources they requested and have the capacity to meet the target.
“It’s not Susi’s fault if all the supporting documentation isn’t there with some applications. We have no way of verifying the anecdotal stories about document requests, and we accept what Susi is telling us in relation to incomplete documentation, in the absence of any written evidence of what has been said,” he said.
A spokesperson for the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee said Susi had met its targets of assessing daily 1,150 applications with all the necessary documents.
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