Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry has raised concerns about the decrease in the number of third level grants awarded in the North West region, while other regions experience an increase in grants.
The Sligo-based Senator is calling on Ruairí Quinn to look again at the rate of grants rejected in the North West region, after it emerged that Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim have all experienced a significant drop in third level grants.
Figures released this week show that the number of third level students receiving grants in Co Mayo dropped by 10%, while there was a 7.1% drop in Leitrim and a 6.4% drop in Sligo. Meanwhile, there was a sharp increase in grants awarded to Dublin students – up more than 13% in the year.
Senator Mac Sharry has said it makes no sense.
“How can the wealthiest part of the country receive an increase of over 13% in grant approvals while the North West sees a dramatic drop? We need to get to the bottom of this,” the Fianna Fáil Senator said.
“I am calling on the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to look at the regional spread of the third level grants awarded since his new grant awarding body, SUSI, was established in 2012. Has the centralising of the grant awarding system in Dublin affected the process? Have the criteria changed at all since the awarding process was removed from local bodies and centralised in Dublin?
“Minister Quinn’s new SUSI system has been plagued with difficulties since its establishment. Students have experienced severe delays forcing some to drop out of college or forgo essential college services. Many students across the North West have inexplicably been refused a grant. Others were forced to go through a lengthy process of resubmitting material that was ‘lost’ or misplaced, or go through an appeals process that was equally torturous.
“The onus is on the Government to ensure that the regional spread of grants awarded is absolutely fair and above board. There is already a strong sense that this region constantly loses out when it comes to State support and investment in infrastructure, health services, garda resources, education resources and essential community services. We seem to be experiencing a two-tier recovery in this country and the North West region is on the wrong side of it. The decline in third level grants in this region is just the latest symptom of this neglect.”