Over 45,000 students are still waiting for their grants to be processed by the new centralised student grant authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).
Ten weeks into the college term, only 16% of students who applied for a grant have received a payment and another 15% of applications were refused. SUSI is hoping to have all applications completed by Christmas.
Students’ Union President, Paul Doherty told The College View: “The figures around SUSI are quite alarming but DCU is quite higher on receipt of grant application in comparison to national figures. This in no way defends the principal of the complete shambles that the SUSI operation was.”
Commenting on the grant delays, DCU SU Education Officer, Aaron Clogher told The College View: “It is a real pity that this new system, which we were told would streamline the grant process and make it transparent and easier to use, has now resulted in such unacceptable delays to the processing and payment of the grant to students. Honestly, at the current rate of work, I cannot see all applications being processed this side of Christmas, and this will present serious problems for students in colleges with pre-Christmas Examinations.”
Clogher added: “It also creates problems for students who are told very late that they are not entitled to the amount they were expecting.” SUSI expects to refuse about 15,000 applications out of the 66,000 grant applications it received this year.
SUSI Communications Officer, Cáit Bohan explained the backlog by the fact that “14,500 students [have] not yet responded to requests for documentation and a further 6,000 submitted incomplete documentation”. However, SUSI deeply regrets any hardship caused to students, Bohan said.
To make the process work faster, SUSI hired 10 new full-time workers. It is now hoping to move assessment of grant applications at 1150 per day instead of 750 per day. SUSI also has 79 people working at the support desk, who have increased communications with students by texts, emails and on the Boards.ie forum.
Bohan told The College View: “The move to one single body was designed to improve the student experience, by speeding up the application process, and ensuring that students could receive monthly payments directly to their bank accounts.” Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn still believes “that the establishment of a single grant awarding body will serve our students better in the long run” Bohan added.
Delays in processing grant applications have always existed in different local authorities according to Clogher: “Certain local authorities were quicker than others in processing the applications for a number of reasons, and the difference in waiting times between the earliest and latest payments of first installments was often a number of weeks. Having said that, I don’t think that the problems in any area were as widespread and severe as the current case.”
The Students’ Union encourages any student experiencing financial pressure to investigate all avenues of support within the university.
SUSI was launched last May to replace the 66 different authorities that used to process grant applications across the country. SUSI received 66,000 grant applications this year, a 20% increase compared to the previous academic year when local grant authorities received about 55,000 applications.