518 students still awaiting 2012 grants
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said a much better system had been put in place for this year and it was intended that all applications would be processed by Christmas
Mary Lou McDonald: “This is only a glimpse of the chaos we know reigned in this system in the last academic year.’’ Photograph: Frank Miller
An estimated 600 students are still experiencing difficulty with third-level grant applications from last year, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has claimed.
“This is only a glimpse of the chaos we know reigned in this system in the last academic year,’’ she said.
Ms McDonald said the level of bureaucracy involved had almost caused parents and students the length and breadth of the country to have nervous breakdowns.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said a much better system had been put in place for this year and it was intended that all applications would be processed by Christmas.
He added that of the 70,000 applications for student grants, in the 2012-2013 academic year, 99.23 per cent were now fully complete.
Mr Gilmore said Susi, the agency dealing with the applications, was still awaiting documents from 18 students, representing 0.02 per cent of all applications. Susi was in contact with applicants by telephone, email and post.
Mr Gilmore said final decisions had been made regarding a further 500 applicants but payment had not yet been made. “In most cases, this is because SUSI has not received bank account details or students are no longer continuing their courses.’’
An independent review of Susi, he said, had been carried out by management consultancy firm Accenture in recent months. In line with its recommendations and, in preparation for the 2013-14 academic year, the online application system and assessment process had been further developed to deal with the difficulties experienced.
A number of new initiatives would also make the application process more efficient this year, said Mr Gilmore. He added that a direct transfer of data between the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Admissions Office and General Registration Office was now in place.
“Susi now has access to appropriate Department of Social Protection social-welfare records,’’ said Mr Gilmore.
“This will allow it to significantly reduce the supporting documentation required of applicants.’’
Mr Gilmore said Susi was working to improve how it communicated with students.
Its website had been completely overhauled to ensure that all information for students was available in one place and an online tracker system was now also available to students so that they could monitor the progress of their applications.
Ms McDonald said the process took no account of outgoings or a family’s debt burden. “Would it not be fairer to calculate a student’s eligibility on the basis of net rather than gross income?’’ she asked.
Mr Gilmore said students would not experience the type of difficulties they experienced last year.
“However, as we all know much depends on the quality of applications,’’ he added.