It’s not to late to apply for a student grant

Applications for Susi can still be made, despite early deadline, but make sure to send requested documentation

  Freshers’ Week at Trinity College, Dublin. Prospective students should make sure grant applications are complete and in on time. Photograph: Pat Langan

Freshers’ Week at Trinity College, Dublin. Prospective students should make sure grant applications are complete and in on time. Photograph: Pat Langan

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 01:00

The national student grant awarding body, Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland), is now in its third year of operation.

We can all remember the chaos that descended on the grant application process in its first year of operation as a single national service.

Its chief executive Jacinta Stewart found herself before a Dáil committee having to explain why the process had overwhelmed the original plan of operation.

During the past week, The Irish Times help desk did not receive one inquiry relating to a problem with the grant application process. The problems have been ironed out and the process seems to be operating smoothly.

The online application system for the 2014-2015 academic year, for new and renewal student grants, opened on May 8th, two weeks earlier than for 2013-2014.

Last year, Susi made significant process and resource improvements, resulting in a much more efficient and effective service. It processed more than 92,000 applications with almost 60,000 students (new and renewal) receiving funding for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Key improvements

It is expected that the number of applications to Susi for this academic year will surpass 100,000.

To meet the challenges posed by such numbers, and in building on the improvements made for the previous academic year, Susi has introduced a number of further key improvements for 2014-2015.

These improvements include:l an earlier application opening date (May 8th);l a more user- friendly website;ll automated validation of the online application form;l extended online services;l streamlined internal processing of applications;l extended data sharing with Government departments and agencies;l andl the introduction of an online grant eligibility reckoner.

Although the deadline for new applications to Susi was August 1st, it is not too late to apply for 2014-2015. However, those applications received before the deadline will receive priority.

Susi operates under very tight processing time frames between May and October, which is the earliest any payments can be made.

After an online application is received, an initial assessment is carried out to determine what documentation is required to support it. Susi then writes to the student requesting this supporting documentation.

Due to the volume of applications received for 2014-2015 (92,136 by August 1st), this process is taking from four to six weeks on average.

Students should make sure to return their documentation to Susi in a timely and complete manner. Otherwise, it may not be in a position to award a grant in time for the October payment date.

The extended data-sharing that Susi has established with Government departments and agencies has led to a considerable reduction in the amount of documentation the body requests from students.

Where there is income from self-employment or farming, Susi requests a full set of trading accounts for 2013 and an acknowledgment of self-assessment that is received when online tax returns have been filed.

Documentation

The agency has noted that many students applying this year, when requested to provide this documentation, have failed to do so.

In such circumstances, these applications can not be processed.

To finalise an application, Susi requires a final course acceptance (FCA) form. For those students who have ticked the Susi option on their CAO application forms, the grant awarding body will receive their course details directly from the CAO.

Those, however, who did not tick the Susi option, will be required to submit an online FCA form. Students can access these forms by logging in to their Susi accounts.

It is very important for students to do this as soon as they have accepted their college place.

It is only at that stage, assuming that students have provided all other requested documentation, that Susi is in a position to finalise applications.

Susi has operated a fast- track approach for students who have renewed their applications from last year for 2014-2015.

In some circumstances, renewal applications have been reassessed and Susi has requested additional documentation.

Students are encouraged to visit the Susi website at susi.ie and to use the online application tracker, where they can track the progress of their applications for grant funding, and confirm that their documentation has been received. Tomorrow: Disability supports services for students.