Ireland’s Department of Education has announced details of a new central online system for student grants called Student Universal Support Ireland, otherwise known as SUSI. The online system is now live and will eventually replace the 66 grant-awarding authorities.
It is expected that SUSI will also save the taxpayer around €5m per year in the long run, the department has confirmed.
Gone will be the days that college-going students will have to wait for their grant payments to come through, depending on which VEC or local authority they were with. The SUSI online system, the City of Dublin VEC (CDVEC) will run, will mean that students whose grant applications have been approved will get monthly electronic transfers into their bank accounts during the academic year.
However, as SUSI will only be dealing with new applications in its first year of operation, renewal applications for students who already get a grant for their current courses will continue to be dealt with by the existing 66 grant-awarding authorities until they finish their courses.
The Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn, TD, has described the online revamp of the grant payment system as an "excellent example of public sector reform".
The Department of Education said that the CDVEC was chosen to operate the student grant scheme in an independent selection process.
The SUSI homepage
“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 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," he said.
According to the department, SUSI will also spell "significant savings" for the exchequer.
Apparently, some 170 people are currently employed across the 66 grant-awarding authorities. SUSI will have a staff of 65 which, the department indicated, will save the taxpayer circa €5m each year once the transition is complete.
The department said some 41pc of all undergraduate students currently receive a grant.
“Our principal purpose, with this new unit, is to provide students with a better service and faster payments," said Jacinta Stewart, CEO of the CDVEC.