Trinity College Dublin is looking to collect over €1.7m owed to the college by students who had been undercharged for their university fees.
The issue arose due to a communication error between SUSI and the college itself. Students who had applied for SUSI grants to have their college tuition, €3,000 per year, paid partly, or in full, had their waives commensurately waived or reduced by the college. However, over the course of a number of years, a significant number of students who had applied for these grants were turned down, meaning they were liable to cover their own fees. The shortfall resulted from some 509 students in this situation who did not alert the college to this fact.
The college became aware of the problem when they contacted SUSI in relation to the payment they believed they were owed from these cases, some dating back three years. However, they were informed that the students in question had actually had their grant applications rejected and that it was they and not SUSI, who owed the college the money.
Of these 509 students who owe the college money, 220 are still currently students, while 289 have graduated. The majority owe €3,000 or less, though some owe up to €9,000. Trinity say that there were some 650 students over this time period who similarly had their SUSI applications rejected and subsequently informed the college and paid their fees in full.
University sources, speaking to The Irish Times said that the problem had been able to develop due to a failure to reconcile Trinity's student fee records to SUSI's.
Trinity have announced that they will attempt to recoup this money from the students involved. However, given the nature of the administrative error, they have declared that those affected will be asked to sign up to a two-year, interest-free repayment plan so as to stagger the payments as they are aware of the burden placing such a sudden and large financial demand would have on students and recent graduates.
The college has assured the Students' Union that the students concerned would not be disadvantaged in any way. Normally, should a student fail to pay their fees they will be refused access to exam results and prevented from graduating until their debt is cleared. However, the college has said that those 220 students still in college will be allowed to progress normally, should they sign up to the repayment plan.
H/T: The Irish Times