College grants system goes online
OVER 60,000 applications for third-level grants have been received online through a new centralised application system, the Department of Education has said.
The first instalment of the grants will be paid to fully awarded students in mid to late October.
The new system, known as Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), has received 1,100 applications a day from third-level students seeking grants for the first time.
Almost 46,000 applications had been fully submitted online by yesterday and almost 15,000 others had been started online, but not yet completed.
Previously, students applied to their local authority or vocational education committee (VEC) for college grants, with some 66 authorities involved. The new centralised system is being run by the City of Dublin VEC.
Students already at college and receiving grants (who are progressing to the next year of the same course) will continue to be assessed and paid by the existing awarding authorities. Those who are changing course or starting a new course will be processed and paid through the new system.
Up to €6,000 a year in maintenance payments may be awarded to students categorised as disadvantaged under the grant scheme.
For those not in this category, up to €3,025 may be awarded depending on a means test and distance from college. Those who get maintenance grants do not pay the student registration fee of €2,500.
Some 85 per cent of grant applications have been provisionally reviewed by staff at Susi, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said yesterday.
Applicants have been asked to send documentary evidence by post to support their request. Once students have sent this, a final assessment will take place.
Though the application system has been open since June, very few applications have been fully approved so far because students only began to accept college places earlier this week and confirmation of their acceptance is required as part of the process.
In the past, the grants application system had been subject to delays and students sometimes had to wait until December or later to get the first instalment.
The situation had been exacerbated, in the last few years, by a rise in the number of students eligible for grants and the effect of the public service moratorium on staff numbers in local authorities.
At the launch of the centralised system in June, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn acknowledged that many students “have had to wait for lengthy periods for their grants in the past and faced undue hardship as a result of those delays”. He said the new system would ensure better customer service for students and would save the exchequer about €5 million a year.