Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Questions (75)

Jonathan O'Brien


75. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills the number of students who were awarded Student Universal Support Ireland fee and maintenance grants for the 2013/14 academic year; the number of these students who were subsequently informed they were not entitled to same; the number of these students who have been told they will have to refund moneys to SUSI; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28581/14]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

According to figures provided to officials in my Department by Student Universal Support Ireland, fees and maintenance grants were awarded to almost 60,000 students, including new and renewal applicants, in respect of the 2013-14 academic year. The applications of almost 33,000 other applicants were either refused or cancelled.

1,484 students were initially awarded a grant but were subsequently refused. No payment was issued to students in the majority of these cases. However, 50 students received a payment and have been advised of the requirement to repay some or all of their grant.

The withdrawal of a previously awarded grant may occur for a number of reasons such as a student commencing a course other than the one in respect of which a grant was awarded, where the latter course is not an approved course. This can occur after the award of a grant has been notified to a student when SUSI seeks to confirm a student's course acceptance with the approved college. In such circumstances, no payment is issued.

Grant applications are also reviewed by SUSI on a continuous basis, including, in particular, when a student is being renewed from year to year. In these cases it can come to attention that an application was incorrectly assessed or that the circumstances that determine a student's eligibility are different, or have changed, from those on the basis of which a grant was initially awarded. This is particularly the case where a student's eligibility may have been marginal in one year and is selected for specific review prior to renewal in the following year.

Any overpayment of a grant is required to be repaid by the student in accordance with the Student Support Act 2011 and the Student Grant Scheme. SUSI implements a repayment policy under which students are asked to agree a repayment plan that is appropriate to their circumstances. SUSI deals with such repayments carefully and sensitively having regard to the ability of students to make repayments.