Student grant process 'improved', Susi says
More staff, less paperwork and online tracking introduced ahead of deadline
File photo of the front square at Trinity College Dublin with graduates. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times
The body that awards third level student grants says it has “improved” the application process by increasing staff and reducing paperwork .
Students who apply by Thursday’s closing day (August 1st) will be “prioritised” and have a “good chance” of being in receipt of payment by the first payment run in late October, Alan Murphy head of operations at Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland) said today.
Susi was established last year to replace applications to individual local authorities but the system suffered significant delays.
The organisation had taken “significant steps” to reduce documentation required by students, Mr Murphy said. A new online system for students renewing their applications has been simplified and replaces a 16 page paper form.
Susi has begun engaging with government agencies so it can collect data directly from them, including the General Register Office, Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection, Department of Education and Skills and the CAO.
The organisation has also improved its request for documents which are more specific. So far a fifth of students applying to Susi require one piece of documentation , Mr Murphy told RTÉ Radio. Another improvement means students can track applications online rather than phoning Susi.
Susi has increased its assessment staff by over a third to deal with applications this year from 65 to 88 full time equivalent . “At the present time our work is running ahead of the number of applications received,” he said.
Mr Murphy said potential students did not need to have a college place awarded to make an application. Round one third level places will be made by CAO on August 19th.* Students can still apply to Susi after the August 1st deadline , he said.
Susi is urging all students planning to go to college to check their eligibility for a grant and make their on-line application before Thursday. Key eligibility questions for grant applicants include: nationality, residency, approved college course, and income (means) test. The income threshold for a full maintenance grant for a family of four or less is €39,875 .
Susi today outlined the six steps to the application: 1. Student applies online 2. Susi conducts an initial assessment (within 3-4 weeks of receiving the application). 3. Student receives document checklist (and must return documents within 3-4 weeks), 4. Susi carries out a final assessment and applications are rejected or accepted 5. Awarded students accept their grant offers,and receive payments. Susi can be contacted at susi.ie, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/susihelpdesk, facebook.com/susisupport and on 0761-087874.
Susi expects to have 75,000 new applications and 25,000 renewal applications in the coming academic year.
Mr Murphy today defended delays in processing payments last year . In May, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn acknowledged the Government “got it wrong” with the introduction of the centralised system to administer third-level grants.
Mr Murphy said the position last Christmas was “not as bad as you might think” with 75 per cent of 40,000 grants awarded at that stage. Less than ten applications from last year were still in the system with, he said.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil earlier this month that the Government intended to process all third-level grant applications by Christmas .