Almost two-thirds of grants have been paid to students already this year according to a statement by SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland), the single Awarding Authority for all new student grant applications. The system is well ahead of time compared to the multiple system failures it experienced last year.
Grants have been paid to 39,000 of the 43,000 students who have been approved, with the final number of students it anticipates awarding grants to being 60,000 this year.
This time last year, only 6,000 students (10% of applicants) had been informed that they had been awarded a grant. Thus this year has seen a more than 7-fold increase in the capacity of the system in the period to the start of November.
SUSI was introduced as a way to merge the dozens of bodies that used to implement payment of grants, including county councils and VECs. All of the former awarding bodies stopped taking new applications last year, but SUSI‘s procedures for those applying for grants failed to work, with many cases of lost documentation, delayed payments and poor support services.
After last year’s chaos SUSI introduced a number of changes to streamline its system and in a statement last week SUSI said that these improvements meant that it has been running “more efficiently and on schedule.”
These measures included opening up the application process earlier and providing an online grant-tracking website. These steps alleviated the burden on an increased number of staff while the process of renewing grants for those who received payments last year is shorter than the method for new applicants.
SUSI will become the sole awarding body of student grants by 2015, by which time students receiving grant renewals from local authorities will have graduated.
By the end of October 20,000 first time applicants have been paid. This means that SUSI has given a first payment to approximately half of its anticipated new sign-ups.
3,000 more students have received confirmation of being awarded a grant, with SUSI awaiting confirmation from their colleges that they are registered or for bank details to be provided before making any payment.
SUSI is still awaiting documentation from 18,000 students; 7,000 of those having submitted no supporting documentation. It is highly unusual for students not to pursue their initial grant application; of last year’s applicants, only 10,000 decided not to proceed with their application.
19,000 of those seeking grant renewals have been paid, with just 1,000 of those approved for renewal awaiting payment.
So far this year, 5,000 applications have been cancelled and 11,500 have been refused.
All of the students who met SUSI’s deadlines and submitted the correct documentation have been awarded their grants within three months of the August 5th deadline. The applications which were received late are still being processed.
The President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Joe O’Connor welcomed the news while UCC SU Welfare Officer David Berry has said that he has had no complaints regarding SUSI from students this year.