THE approval and payment of grants to third-level students is well ahead of where it was this time last year, when administrative chaos hit the system.
The centralised grant awarding body, SUSI, has approved payment to 23,000 first-time applicants, compared with 6,000 at the end of October 2012. SUSI, which, this year, also took responsibility for processing grants for second-year students, has also awarded 20,000 grants based on renewal applications.
Of the total 43,000 grants approved, SUSI has made payments to 39,000 students – 20,000 first-time applicants and 19,000 renewal applicants.
The other 4,000 students will receive their grants as soon as their colleges confirm that they are registered and attending and when students provide their bank details.
Because of improvements to its system, SUSI has been running more efficiently, and on schedule, this year.
The agency expects to award a total of 60,000 grants for this academic year, 40,000 of them to new applicants.
All eligible students who met SUSI's priority processing deadlines and have submitted all the documents required to support their applications have now been awarded their grant.
Students who supplied documents within the deadline, but have been asked for additional information, are expected to receive notification of their grant status within four weeks of providing the information.
Processing of applications that arrived after SUSI's priority processing deadlines is continuing.
Students can follow the progress of late applications on the online tracker system www.grantsonline.ie.
SUSI is still awaiting documents from 18,000 students, of whom 7,000 have not submitted any documents to support their applications.
It is not unusual for students not to pursue the initial grant application; last year, 10,000 decided not to proceed.
After last year's debacle, SUSI introduced a number of changes to streamline the grants application and approval process.
The system opened for applications four weeks earlier and, crucially, reduced the requirement on applicants to provide documents, such as birth or tax certificates, to support their claim.
That was because SUSI established links with key government and other agencies to allow for electronic transfer of necessary information.
However, it now has agreements on data sharing with the General Registration Office, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection, and the Department of Education and Skills and the CAO.