The CEO of Co. Louth VEC, Dr. Pádraig Kirk, has said that he is not surprised that considerable numbers of students were experiencing delays regarding their college grant applications, but that he was surprised at the level of disquiet expressed nationally regarding the delays.
“When you consider the scale of the task that the new awarding authority SUSI was charged with undertaking in such a short space of time, it was a certainty that there were going to be teething problems”, he said.
Up until last year, students applied to their local authority or VEC for their grants. The Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) scheme was launched earlier this year to replace all of these sixty-six awarding authorities with a centralised, easy to use on-line application system. However, in recent days parents and students across the country have reported having to wait inordinate lengths of time to hear whether they will be awarded the grant, let alone be paid.
Dr. Kirk said, “up until this year the student grant system was administered by over sixty different authorities nationally. Now, just one central authority is dealing with in the region of 66,000 student applications, and these all need to be assessed within a concentrated period of time. Coupled with this, many staff in the new awarding authority may not have had the relevant experience needed to adjudicate on a grant application and so training may have been necessary. All of this takes time and is bound to have impacted on SUSIs capacity to deliver”. Dr. Kirk also explained that the third level grants system is in the midst of a considerable period of reform and that this was a time that would be susceptible to hiccups. “While recognising the anxiety and inconvenience that delays can pose for students and parents, once the changeover is bedded down, I’m confident that the new system will run smoothly”.
The CEO pointed out that applicants too have responsibilities which, if adhered to, would help curtail unnecessary delays. “There were always delays relating to some grant applications when our VEC administered them. This was primarily due to the fact that incomplete applications were submitted, or certain items of documentation were omitted as part of the application process.”