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New Education Minister must stop SUSI forcing students to pay for its mistakes

3 July, 2014 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Speaking following receiving information from SUSI, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien called upon the new Minister for Education to ensure that SUSI is no longer permitted for force students to repay monies to the organisation for mistakes that its staff have made.

Deputy O’Brien said;

“I have received information that showed that 1,484 students were initially told by SUSI they were entitled to a grant only to be contacted again and told they weren’t.

“Fifty of these students actually received payments from SUSI and now have been told to repay either some or all of the grant when they have already spent the money on rent and books.

“SUSI has tried to fudge this and place them blame on students, however some have been in touch with us and it is clear that these were mistakes made by SUSI staff.

“We wouldn’t dispute that there will be some human error given the numbers of students involved, but SUSI has put students in a position where they not only have to repay thousands of euro but some also have to pay thousands of euro to the college they were attending because their fees aren’t covered.

“All this does is force students out of the education system indefinitely, on to the dole queue and saddled with a massive debt.

“SUSI could be a great organisation but there are too many anomalies in the rules that it operates under, and it is up to the new Minister to ensure that stupid mistakes of this nature that have the capacity to ruin students’ prospects are eradicated in the future.”


Note to Editor: PQ reply to Deputy O’Brien follows
Ceist Pharlaiminte

Chun an Aire Oideachais agus Eolaíoctha
To the Minister for Education and Science

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who were awarded Student Universal Support Ireland fee and maintenance grants for the 2013/14 academic year; the number of these students who were subsequently informed they were not entitled to same; the number of these students who have
been told they will have to refund moneys to SUSI; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Jonathan O'Brien.

* For WRITTEN answer on Wednesday, 2nd July, 2014.
Reference Number: 28581/14

Minister Ruairí Quinn

According to figures provided to officials in my Department by Student Universal Support Ireland, fees and maintenance grants were awarded to almost 60,000 students, including new and renewal applicants, in respect of the 2013-14 academic year. The applications of almost 33,000 other applicants were either refused or cancelled.

1,484 students were initially awarded a grant but were subsequently refused. No payment was issued to students in the majority of these cases. However, 50 students received a payment and have been advised of the requirement to repay some or all of their grant.

The withdrawal of a previously awarded grant may occur for a number of reasons such as a student commencing a course other than the one in respect of which a grant was awarded, where the latter course is not an approved course. This can occur after the award of a grant has been notified to a student when SUSI seeks
to confirm a student's course acceptance with the approved college. In such circumstances, no payment is issued.

Grant applications are also reviewed by SUSI on a continuous basis, including, in particular, when a student is being renewed from year to year. In these cases it can come to attention that an application was incorrectly assessed or that the circumstances that determine a student's eligibility are different, or have changed, from those on the basis of which a grant was initially awarded.
This is particularly the case where a student's eligibility may have been marginal in one year and is selected for specific review prior to renewal in the following year.

Any overpayment of a grant is required to be repaid by the student in accordance with the Student Support Act 2011 and the Student Grant Scheme.
SUSI implements a repayment policy under which students are asked to agree a repayment plan that is appropriate to their circumstances. SUSI deals with such repayments carefully and sensitively having regard to the ability of students to make repayments.

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