Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen has warned that thousands of students are facing major delays in receiving their third level grants for the next college year unless the Minister for Education publishes details of the grant scheme immediately.

Deputy Cowen said: “There has been absolutely no progress in publishing details of the third level grants scheme for the next academic year. The application forms haven’t even been made available. Last year the grant scheme and application forms were published on 24th May. It is now 23rd of June and there is still no sign of the 2011/12 forms.

““The local authorities have already lost four weeks of processing time and there are still no clear indications about how much longer this delay will continue. We are fast approaching a situation similar to the delays in 2009 where thousands of students suffered late payment of grants as a result of delays in publishing the terms of the grant scheme.

“The very least that Education Minister Ruairí Quinn could do is make the application forms available so students can have their applications ready to avoid even longer delays when the processing begins.  This is a straight forward step that the Minister could take to ease the mounting concern that’s out there among students.

“The next academic year is approaching fast and students need to budget for their rent, bills and other college expenses. I am also calling on the Minister to provide some clarity on the level of grant payments to allow students to plan their finances.

 ““The longer Minister Ruairí Quinn delays in publishing the 2011/12 application forms, the greater the risk that students won’t get paid until well after the start of college year. This could leave students struggling to pay their rent at the start of term. The Minister’s lethargy and lack of action on this issue could directly lead to students suffering hardship this Autumn.”