Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has apologised to students still waiting to receive their grant due to delays with the newly implemented Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) system. Only 3,010 grants have been paid so far, less than 5% of the 66,000 applications which have been received so far.
Quinn stated: “If there are mistakes in the system, I didn’t make them but I am responsible for them… I don’t want to have an inquiry while we’re in the middle of fixing the problem.” He also said that it was regretful that we find ourselves in such a position today, but that he has granted all requests in relation to staffing or other resources necessary for SUSI. He has made it a priority to ensure everyone entitled to a grant will receive it before Christmas.
Only 18,000 out of the 66,000 students who had applied for a grant through SUSI have been issued a response so far. These figures are in accordance with figures that City of Dublin VEC Chief Executive Jacinta Stewart gave to the Oireachtas Education Committee.
Of the 66,0000 applications received, 20,350 are at reward stage, 25,310 are being processed and 20,500 applications are still awaiting documentation from students. Stewart stated: “The committee convened at short notice on Tuesday to discuss delays in processing grants for thousands of students by the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), which comes under the City of Dublin VEC.”
“Our committee is concerned at the considerable strain on third level students and their families while they wait for a decision on their application for a grant, as well as for the funding to come through for successful applications. This is the first year SUSI is processing grants and it is currently only dealing with first-time applicants.” said Committee Chair Joanna Tuffy.
Union of Students in Ireland President John Logue relayed the problems that were being experienced with the new system at a meeting with authorities last week and encouraged the eventual decision to take on the new personnel to deal with the backlog. The USI were in support of the new centralised system because it was assured it “would be more efficient and accessible.” Logue commented: “Yet now, tens of thousands of students are still waiting for their applications to be processed and many are close to dropping out of college because they can’t afford to pay fees and rent.”
Quinn has stated that there were clear “problems” with the new centralised third level grants system, adding delays were “not satisfactory” and has was “not entirely sure why”. Quinn has also said colleges “should not put barriers in the way” for students to access library and other services “until there’s a definite yes or no to their application”.
The scheme was set up in an effort to streamline the grant system with its main aim to enable the grant payouts to be centralised through the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (VEC) as opposed to the former method of processing grant applicants through the 66 local authorities and VECs nationwide.