Students overpaid €3.7m - and may not have to pay it back
Third-level students were overpaid more than €4m in grant money during the academic year 2012/13, it has emerged.
SUSI - the body which oversees the payment of all third-level grants - has admitted that a total of €3.7m was paid out in error to 1,300 students who were ineligible to receive certain grants. It represents an average overpayment of €2,850 per student.
SUSI wrote to effected students to advise them that they might be liable to repay the money once the problem was identified.
However, no money was recovered and it is currently seeking approval from the Department of Education to write off the total amount.
The organisation also revealed that overpayments worth €309,981 were made to students in the academic year 2012/13 who were eligible for grants but who failed to have satisfactory attendance records or who left their courses.
Just €32,275 of this figure had been recovered by the end of November 2014.
SUSI, which emerged out of the student grants unit of the City of Dublin VEC, has been the single awarding body for all new third-level and post-Leaving Certificate student grants since 2012.
The chairman of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (which replaced the CDVEC) Paddy Bourke said an internal quality review of awarded grants by SUSI had highlighted overpayments.
The review identified overpayments amounting to €3,705,561 - which represented 2.5pc of total grant expenditure by SUSI that year.
Overpayments were established in three distinct classes of students:
• €1,876,447 was paid in maintenance grants to students who were already in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance.
• €635,025 was paid in fee grants to post-graduate students assessed on the basis of independent applicant class, when they were receiving financial support from their families.
• €1,176,089 was paid in fee and maintenance grants to non-EU students.
Bourke, an independent member of Dublin City Council, said new and enhanced data and information sharing arrangements with other Government departments and agencies were introduced for the 2013/14 academic year to improve methods of validating grant applications.
A SUSI spokesperson said it had introduced major improvements in how it validated grant applications.