Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien tabled an issue for Topical Issues’ Debate in today’s afternoon session of the Dáil on serious flaws affecting the SUSI online processing of student grants.
Speaking after the debate, the Cork North Central TD said: “When Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) was launched in June, Sinn Féin welcomed this new central online system for grants which we hoped would ensure a more efficient and cost effective way of processing third level applications over the internet.
“In the past, students had to apply to their local authority or VEC for their grants and 66 grant awarding authorities were involved, all using a variety of applications, assessment and payment processes. It was a cumbersome process that often resulted in delayed payments, and confusion. The new on-line system was supposed to make the process of applying for a grant a good deal easier but regrettably, there have been serious flaws within SUSI which have resulted in delayed payments, poor communication and inadequate responses to applications and document submissions.
“Students have experiences difficulties securing approval for grants which often leads to late registration meaning they are unable to access timetables and facilities until registered. Complaints have also been made about the SUSI helpdesk who have been criticised for providing inaccurate or vague information and there has also been poor communication between the colleges and SUSI.
“The consequences for students and their families cannot be overstated and over the number of weeks my office in Cork has dealt with people who have been left in dire straits by the failings of the new online system.
“A number of students who have been attending college for the past month have still to receive their grants and this is causing significant hardship to them and their families as they struggle to make ends meet.
“I know of at least two students whose place at college has been jeopardised as a result of delays in their payments.
“During today’s debate I urged the Minister to introduce a number of measures that would improve matters including the introduction of a clear tracking system that would enable students to know what stage applications are at. A better designed more user friendly website would also help and resources need to be found to improve the briefing and training of Helpdesk staff who are doing their best under difficult circumstances.
“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.
For Topical Issue debate:
Delays in student grant applications
11 Oct 2012
To debate difficulties arising from the online Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) system processing of third level maintenance grand applications that is resulting in payments being delayed to students. Deputy Jonathan O’Brien
Flawed online grant system and problems processing third level grants debated in the Dáil