£3.25m overpaid to students in grants error
THE Welsh Government has to write off £3.25m after incorrectly paying grants to students over a decade.
The grants, known as grants for dependants (GFD), were paid to Welsh students on distance learning courses.
But, the GFD grant should not have been paid to students on distance learning courses as they are not physically attending a campus.
It then emerged that Student Finance Wales and the Open University had confirmed that parttime students on distance learning had been given the grants.
However, the payments were made in “good faith”, according to Education Secretary Kirsty Williams and came about as a result of a “genuine misinterpretation of the regulations”.
Mrs Williams has said she does not think it “would be fair” to remove the grant to current students who would “suffer financial loss or hardship as a result of removing access to the support that they have been awarded to date” and that students who started their courses before 2018 should continue to receive the grants until they finish their studies.
She adds there is no longer any “room for ambiguity regarding the eligibility of students on distance learning courses”.
“New students undertaking a designated distance learning course in 2018-19 are not eligible for GFDs. However, under the new, more generous package of student support, part-time students will have access to maintenance grants and loans. This position provides parity of support for full and part-time students.”
She says there will be an investigation to look at the processes which led to the grant overpayment and “to provide recommendations on improvements to the systems”.