UCD Students’ Union President Gary Redmond has renewed calls for a wholescale reform of the third level maintenance grant system. The demands came as the SU released results of a survey of the administration costs incurred by County Councils across the country.
The survey’s results revealed huge discrepancies between the costs incurred by each County Council. Westmeath recorded the lowest expenses, spending €70.51 on administration costs per grant processed, while North Tipperary topped the chart, spending €484.25 on each application. The numbers were received by the SU in response to a Freedom of Information request lodged with each Council.
When asked about his calls for a centralised grants system, Redmond stated that “students’ unions across Ireland have been calling on the Minister for a number of years now to centralise the grant application process,” and said that a centralised system would be cheaper on the state as well as being easier to navigate for students. He estimated that a centralised grants system would save the government in the region of €20 million each year.
Redmond described the differences in administration costs between the county councils as “absolutely huge”, and shared that the UCDSU survey had “brought to light the argument that a central grants authority would be able to do this far cheaper.” He also confirmed that a full enquiry is being set up into the administration costs of grants, having received a letter from the Department of Education that ensured that “the matters are being brought under investigation.”
Redmond has also asked that applications for the grants system be opened in advance of CAO offers being made, so that new and continuing students can apply early and allow extra time for county councils to process their applications.
Among other changes that Redmond has proposed is to make all grant payments directly into students’ accounts, to minimise cheque stamp duty. Redmond also wants to see the frequency of grant payments examined, with monthly or biannual payments studied as possible alternative options.
Redmond is confident that his proposals will be taken on board, saying that he had “raised this issue at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education & Science, and received a lot of support there from both Government and opposition colleagues of the Minister.” He feels that there is “no reason or rationale for [the proposals] not to be introduced,” and is confident that discussion on the issue will begin soon with the Government enquiry into the grants system.