Concerns raised over processing of Offaly student grant applications

Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said he is extremely concerned that students in Offaly are being left struggling without grants they are entitled to because of the alarming rate of third level grant applications being refused so far this year, and the massive backlog in unprocessed applications.

Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said he is extremely concerned that students in Offaly are being left struggling without grants they are entitled to because of the alarming rate of third level grant applications being refused so far this year, and the massive backlog in unprocessed applications.

In reply to parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil, the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn confirmed that 72% of the grant applications processed so far this year have been refused. In addition to this, 78% of applicants are still waiting to hear back from the Department of Education.

Deputy Cowen said, “The situation is extremely serious. Just over 20% of applications from students in Offaly have been decided upon.

“It seems unbelievable to me that the Department has rejected nearly 3 out of every 4 applications processed to date. This is leaving students without badly need grants that they’re entitled to, almost two months after the start of the college term.

“It is becoming clear that the new SUSI system is riddled with problems. This system was designed to speed up the administering of third-level grants and to prevent incomplete applications. So how is it that over 1,100 applications from students in Offaly still haven’t been decided upon? How is it that almost 20,000 applications across the country, which have been classed as incomplete, slipped through the new system?

“The Education Minister must urgently explain these massive delays and the alarming rate of rejections. When the SUSI system was launched, Minister Quinn said the process would be ‘quick and easy’ and that it would end the possibility of students facing ‘undue hardship as a result of delays’. Instead we have a situation where tens of thousands of students are still in the dark about their grant applications and are getting increasingly concerned as the department rejects nearly 3 out of every 4 applications.”

He concluded by saying, “Thousands of Offaly students apply for grants every year. They need to know how long they are now expected to wait before they hear back from the Department. I am calling for a statement from Minister Quinn outlining the problems with the processing system and what is being done to address these problems and end the uncertainty for students.”