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Six months into year, 14pc of SUSI applicants still without grants

Nearly 10,000 students have either been approved a grant but not yet paid, or have applications still being processed.

Students in Trinity College distribute food boxes to fellow students whose grant applications have yet to be processed by SUSI.
Students in Trinity College distribute food boxes to fellow students whose grant applications have yet to be processed by SUSI.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

AROUND ONE IN SEVEN college students who applied to the grant processing body SUSI for a third-level maintenance grant are still either without payment or a firm decision on whether they are eligible for a grant, it has emerged.

Of the 69,361 students who filed grant documentation to SUSI this year, 9,912 have either been approved for a grant but have yet to receive it, have returned incomplete information, have returned supplementary information on request, or are having a final decision currently processed.

The figures were revealed by the chief civil servant at the Department of Education, Seán Ó Foghlú, to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

Ó Foghlú, who admitted the grant processing regime at SUSI was unsatisfactory, said SUSI had a current staffing level equivalent to 69 full-time workers – said the number included 2,164 students whose applications had been approved, but who had not yet been paid their grant.

4,176 applicants had returned incomplete applications, he said, while a further 3,181 had submitted supplementary documentation after being asked to do so by SUSI.

Despite the large number of outstanding applications, Ó Foghlú said only 391 applications were now with SUSI “for processing”, meaning there were thousands more grant applications still to be considered by its staff.

In addition to the 9,912 above, a further 6,859 people who had yet to respond to requests from SUSI to submit further documentation supporting their grants.

It was assumed in these cases that the students had begun to fill out a grant application form online, and then opted against completing it, knowing that their household income levels meant they were ineligible.

SUSI has been forced to treat those applications as ‘live’, however, as it cannot tell whether those students still intended to complete an application or had entirely abandoned it.

If those applications are discounted for the total number, SUSI has still to complete its processing of almost 16 per cent of grant applications – with many students now six months into their college year.

The figures given to the committee were correct as of February 24.

Aside from the financial difficulties that delayed grant payments cause, they also cause administrative difficulty for both students and colleges – as many students hoping to receive grants would not have paid their ‘student contribution’ fee of €2,250, because grant recipients have it paid for by local councils or VECs.

In some colleges, however, students who have not fully paid the contribution fee are not considered to have fully registered, and can therefore be barred from using facilities like libraries.

January: Student grant backlog almost cleared (but 21k told applications were incomplete)

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Gavan Reilly

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