Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue has said it is ‘extremely worrying’ that the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has no plans to meet with SUSI officials face-to-face given that he was unable to express confidence in the Dail this week that the thousands of students waiting on grant approval will receive it before Christmas.
Questioning Minister Quinn in the Dáil, Deputy McConalogue expressed concern that the Minister is relying on unrealistic targets and that he still refuses to take a hands-on approach.
The Fianna Fáil Deputy explained, “Minister Quinn told me that he spoke to SUSI officials on the phone and that they plan to award 33,000 grants by Christmas. But grants are being processed at a rate of 2,000 a week, and there is just 6 weeks to Christmas. That means that at current rates, there would only be an additional 12,000 grants awarded by Christmas.
“In addition to this, a further 21,000 grants still have not been fully processed by SUSI and an additional 23,000 require further documentation. Given these figures, there is no doubt in my mind that of thousands of students will be waiting well into the New Year for their grants. How many more students will be forced to drop out between now and then?
“The bottom line is that the Minister is relying on unrealistic targets, and at this rate the grants crisis is nowhere near being solved. He has refused to state that he has full confidence in SUSI’s figures, but he still has no problem relying on those figures instead of meeting management face-to-face and taking control of the situation.
“The Minister making the odd phone call to check in on this crisis is not the kind of leadership students were promised last week. Students need to have confidence that everything is being done to ensure they get their grants urgently. This requires a hands-on approach by Minister Quinn. I am again calling on the Minister to personally meet with the managers of SUSI instead of just hoping the problem will go away.”