Over 50,000 students who have applied for an academic grant through the new system, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) are yet to find out if they have qualified. SUSI was launched this year as an online-only national system for new applicants in order to speed up the grant process. This is to replace the previous system of students applying to their local authority or VEC for a grant.
Of the 65,335 applications made by students to SUSI, only 4,159 have been awarded, just one in every 16. Grant payments were originally expected to be paid at the beginning of October, however fewer than 1,700 students have received a payment. While 10,000 applications were denied outright, 54,230 have yet to hear about their status. The CEO of City of Dublin VEC, which runs SUSI, Jacinta Stewart has stated that they had expected that 35,000 students would have been awarded grants by December.
UCD Students’ Union Education Officer Shane Comer expressed anger at the delays, “As regards students who applied for the first time this year, through SUSI, there’s been a massive amount of delays not just in UCD but around the country… I am extremely dissatisfied, extremely disheartened and just annoyed at the performance of SUSI because it was greeted with such fanfare, even by myself and the fact is that UCD got its first batch of names in, processed those names but it was a minuscule amount compared to the numbers of students who have actually applied to SUSI. I’m disgusted by that.”
Stewart cited the source of the delay as incomplete and poorly filled out application forms. 50,000 of the applications were returned requesting further documentation, of which 40% came back still incomplete. Union of Students in Ireland President John Logue described the delays as a “scandalous situation” and blamed the problems students had in filling out the applications on SUSI staff shortages and the lack of guidance for applicants, saying there “is a need for more hands on the pump”.
The figures were released by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn last week in response to a parliamentary question from Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien condemned the delays: “As thousands of families struggle to make ends meet, it is unacceptable that students are having their grants delayed because of flaws in a system that was supposed to improve the processing of third level applications,” he said.
“The new SUSI online system was supposed to make the process of applying for a grant a good deal easier but regrettably, there have been serious flaws which have resulted in delayed payments, poor communication and inadequate responses to applications and document submissions.”