Fianna Fáil Deputy Barry Cowen has revealed that more than 500 students from across Co Offaly are still waiting for their grant applications to be processed.
Figures released to Fianna Fáil through a series of Parliamentary Questions reveal that of the 1,232 students from Offaly who applied for grants this year, just over 637 of these applications had been processed by the beginning of December, and only a fraction of these students have actually received grant payments. By the beginning of the month, 217 Offaly students had been rejected for a grant and 420 applications were successful. However the vast majority of Offaly students are still waiting to actually receive a grant payment.
“It is clear that this crisis has not gone away, despite attempts by the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to downplay it,” said Deputy Cowen.
“The fact that nearly half of applications from Offaly still hadn’t been processed by the beginning of December is extremely worrying. Even of the applications that have been processed, a high proportion of these students haven’t actually received a payment yet.
“Despite all Minister Quinn’s promises, the vast majority of students will be waiting well into the New Year for their grants. I have already spoken to a number of students locally who are experiencing enormous difficulties as a result of these unacceptable delays and who are at risk of dropping out of third level altogether. The longer this is allowed to linger, the greater the likelihood that many students simply will not be able to afford to stay in college.
“How can Minister Quinn allow this to happen? It seems that all his focus has been on spinning the figures to make this situation look more palatable than it is. But students don’t want to hear talk of processes and systems, they just want to know when they will actually get the money they are entitled to. They also don’t want to hear Minister Quinn’s ‘it’s not SUSI’s fault’ defence. The tactic of blaming students for the high level of unprocessed and ‘incomplete’ grant applications is a cheap shot. Students from lower income families who are in need of state support to stay in college are not the ones dragging their heels here.
“It is the lack of certainty that is causing the most distress for students and their families. It is time for Minister Quinn to stop worrying about his PR, and start being upfront with students about when exactly they will see their grants. I am calling on him to immediately state how many students in Offaly and across the country will actually receive a grant before Christmas.”