The new central online system for student grants is now live. Student Universal Support Ireland or SUSI will be accepting all new grant applications and giving out payments to students starting college in the coming academic year or those beginning new courses.
Up until last year, students applied to their local authority or VEC for their grants. Some 66 grant awarding authorities were involved, all using a variety of application, assessment and payment processes. SUSI replaces all of these with a centralised, easy to use, on-line system of application.
SUSI is run by the City of Dublin VEC which was chosen to operate the student grant scheme in an independent selection process. If parents or students have any queries in relation to the application process or the student grant scheme they should contact the “SUSI Support Desk” by telephone at 0761 08 7874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D. is urging students to apply to SUSI early. “Now that the system is up and running I would call on students who will be starting college in the autumn or those who are beginning new courses to apply on-line as soon as they can.” “Leaving Cert students will be finishing up their exams in the next ten days and those who are likely to qualify for a student grant can then set their minds to making an online application through www.studentfinance.ie”.
“The process is quick and easy, you do not have to have decided on your college course before applying and you will be informed much quicker on the outcome of your application,” said Minister Quinn. “Many students have had to wait for lengthy periods for their grants in the past and faced undue hardship as a result of these delays. Now, once they are approved, they will receive monthly electronic transfers into their bank accounts during the academic year.” There are significant savings to the Exchequer through the operation of SUSI. 170 people are currently employed across the 66 grant awarding authorities. SUSI has a staff of 65 which will save the taxpayer approximately €5 million per annum once the transition is complete.
“This is an excellent example of public sector reform,” said Minister Quinn, “It has significant benefits not only to students seeking or in receipt of grants but also to the public purse.” “These reforms will ensure better customer service for all students who rely on grants and are also a concrete development in meeting the objectives for the education sector as set out in the Croke Park Agreement.” The new streamlined system will make it much easier for students to apply for grants. It is an intelligent system, leading students to answer questions only relevant to their circumstances. Mandatory fields mean that incomplete applications cannot arise.
Jacinta Stewart CEO of the CDVEC said, “Our principal purpose, with this new unit, is to provide students with a better service and faster payments. CDVEC, in the setting up of SUSI, has fully committed to streamlining the student grant application process.” Once an application has been submitted online, eligible students will receive a preliminary approval which will be confirmed when they submit any necessary supporting documentation and acceptance of a college place. This not alone means that students will get payments in a timely manner, but it will help them and their parents to make more informed choices about going to college.
As SUSI will only be dealing with new applications in the first year of operation, renewal applications for students already in receipt of a grant for their current courses will continue to be dealt with by the existing 66 grant awarding authorities.
The SUSI support desk has already been available during office hours and is now expanded to 9.00am-10.00pm Monday-Friday and 9.00am-6.00pm Saturdays since the go-live.