Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has accused the Government of shamefully patting itself on the back for a modest increase in the Student Assistance Fund, while at the same time hiking student fees, cutting their grants and presiding over an unprecedented crisis in grant processing.
“Instead of issuing press releases congratulating themselves for this modest increase, Minister Quinn and the Labour Party would be far better off taking ownership of their political decisions and showing some leadership as the SUSI crisis rumbles on. It is the Government’s shambolic handling of this new system that added to the hardship experienced by students and necessitated this additional funding,” said Deputy McConalogue.
“The irony of Labour backbenchers tripping over themselves to ‘commend’ Minister Quinn for this move has not been lost on students. This is the Minister who, despite all his promises, increased student fees, cut student grants, abolished post-graduate grants, reduced third level funding, washed his hands of his own creation SUSI for weeks on end until he was forced to respond, and has shown a continued lack of leadership as thousands of students still wait for the support they need to stay in college.
“Students and their families have been let down terribly by Ruairí Quinn, and a once-off increase in the Student Assistance Fund goes nowhere near making up for that. It also does little to alleviate the very real sense of desperation among so many students who are still waiting for their grants four months into the academic year.
“I find it very frustrating that SUSI officials continue to blame students themselves for the ongoing delays. The idea that thousands of students, who are in desperate need of a grant to stay in college, would drag their heels for months on end is simply not credible. I have been contacted by many parents and students who submitted and resubmitted all the necessary documentation but were falsely told by SUSI that their applications were ‘incomplete’. In some cases they were told their documents may have been ‘misplaced’ or that there is no record of what they submitted.
“It is clear that this SUSI mess has not gone away. Neither has the deepening financial crisis for many students as Minister Quinn continues to increase the cost of college,” said Deputy McConalogue.