That SUSI, still breaking student’s hearts

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It was a promise that students could hardly refuse. Apply for your grant online, get it processed in double-quick time, pay your college fees, and continue your upward trajectory. Like any meaningful relationship, things just couldn’t be that simple.

As a general rule of thumb, whenever a new system is put in place you can expect there to be some teething problems. What no one expected was that the teething problems for the new online grant system (by the way, contrary to not-so-popular belief, ‘SUSI’ stands for Student Universal Support Ireland, and not Still Usurping Student Investment) would drag on so disastrously.

Last year’s round of applications was plagued by a systems error; this year’s was praised for its marked improvement despite another systems crash (the result of a surge of last-minute applications), which prompted a deadline extension. Improving on mediocrity should never be cause for celebration. Delays and administrative errors that cause such huge distress for students and their families should be neither expected nor tolerated.

Yet they continue.

‘Dear John…’

The latest in the SUSI saga was brought to light by Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy – himself a member of the SUSI advisory group. According to Carthy, a family in his constituency received a letter from SUSI indicating that their application for a grant was denied on the basis that their means was over €54,240. This is despite the fact that the same letter indicated that SUSI had assessed reckonable income at €46,661.

“I cannot believe that I had to write to SUSI to explain to them that €46,661 is in fact lower than €54,240,’ said an incredulous Carthy. ‘This student has had to contact SUSI on more than one occasion to explain that both he, and his sister, were attending third level education and therefore both should be entitled to a 50 per cent maintenance grant as income thresholds increase when more than one student from a household is attending college. I have also written to SUSI explaining the connection between the two students and asking for the grant to be issued’

‘The Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, needs to address this situation,’ he continued. ‘While occurrences like this are rarer than they had been twelve months ago the truth is that they shouldn’t be happening at all.’

Political agendas aside, Carthy’s words certainly ring true here. Let’s hope SUSI is listening.


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