2.8m of outstanding student debt recorded in 2016

Orla Dwyer

[dropcap]College[/dropcap] grant overpayments worth €2.8m were left outstanding at the end of 2016, Credit:SUSI.ie

College grant overpayments worth €2.8m were left outstanding at the end of 2016, according to a City of Dublin Education and Training Board report.

This includes €1.6m paid incorrectly by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) during that year. SUSI is the grant scheme in Ireland for eligible college students.

The City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CTEB) operates SUSI on behalf of the Department of Education and the figures were contained in their 2016 financial statement.

“Under current student grant legislation, all student grant overpayments are liable to be repaid and SUSI implements a flexible repayment policy with repayment instalment amounts and terms that are designed to be a student-friendly as possible,” said spokesperson for SUSI media group Alan Murphy.

The overpayments mainly occurred in low-value sums in 2016, according to the CTEB.

In SUSI’s first year of operation in 2012, €3.7m was wrongly paid to 1,200 students in higher education mainly in amounts of around €3,000. Only 100 of the mistakenly paid students agreed to repay the money. The mishap was written off by SUSI in 2015.

The outstanding amounts for the period to the end of 2016 is around 0.4 per cent of SUSI’s grant spend for the 2016/2017 academic year, according to the latest update on overpayments.

“Most other grant overpayments arise where students withdraw, defer or otherwise cease to attend their courses for whatever reason,” Murphy said.

“In 2016, college fee refunds accounted for more than 25 per cent of the overpayments reported,” Murphy added.

Other higher education grants include the ESF student assistance fund. It’s funded in part by Dáil Éireann and the European Social Fund.

83 per cent of students applying for the ESF Fund in DCU also applied to SUSI for either fees or maintenance. 63 per cent of students are financially dependent on parents/guardians while 25 per cent include summer savings from employment.

These statistics are from the 2016/2017 academic year and are based on 1100 applicants to the ESF in DCU.

Alternative options for third-level education funding such as a student loan scheme have been criticised in the past by the Union of Students Ireland (USI) and other organisations.

Orla Dwyer