Over 1,100 Offaly students still waiting for student grants

Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has demanded action from the Education Minister following confirmation that over 1,100 Offaly students are still waiting for their student grants to be processed.

Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has demanded action from the Education Minister following confirmation that over 1,100 Offaly students are still waiting for their student grants to be processed.

The figures were revealed by Education Minister Ruairí Quinn in a series of Parliamentary Questions from Fianna Fáil.

It was confirmed that only 22.3% of the 1,192 student grant applicants from Offaly have received a reply from the Department. That means almost 80% of students from Offaly are still waiting for their applications to be processed. Nationally, over 50,000 applications still haven’t been decided on.

Deputy Cowen described the situation as unacceptable and has called for an urgent explanation from Minister Quinn.

“It is clear that the new centralised grant application system (SUSI) is riddled with problems. Minister Quinn launched this system amid great fanfare in June saying the process will be ‘quick and easy’ and it will stop students waiting for ‘lengthy periods of time and facing undue hardship as a result of delays’. However the reality for students is far from what was promised,” said Deputy Cowen.

“As we head into the Christmas period there are over 1,100 students from Offaly, and tens of thousands across the country, who are still waiting for their grants to be processed by this ‘quick and easy’ system. For many of them, the delays are preventing them from registering fully at college and accessing library and computer services. Some have been asked to pay the €2,250 third level registration fee up front until their grants come through. Others who are in receipt of the Back-to-Education allowance have been issued letters saying they will be cut off by November 6 unless they can show proof of college registration, which they are prevented from doing until they receive their grant.

“The delays are hitting the most hard-pressed students in Offaly and across the country. These are students who because of their personal situation need state support to go to college. I have heard from constituents that people can’t even get through to the helpline and some students have even been forced to drop out of their courses. It is disgraceful that it is now November and so many of them still have no idea when and if they will receive their grant. Minister Quinn was quick to accept praise when this new system launched. But now that the grant application system is in crisis, he is nowhere to be seen. Students deserve an explanation from the Minister and some assurance about what is being done to rectify the situation,” said Deputy Cowen.

Fianna Fáil has called on the Minister to

* Outline his action plan to address this crisis;

* Ask all third level institutions to ensure that student grant applicants have full access to student services until their grant comes through;

* Direct the HEA to ensure that no students are pressurised into paying the €2,250 registration fee upfront while their grant application is delayed; and

* Liaise with his colleague, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, to ensure that students will not lose their Back-to-Education Allowance because they cannot show proof of completing college registration