The silence from the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn over the ongoing crisis with student grant applications is unacceptable, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue.
Deputy McConalogue has said the new centralised grant application system (SUSI) is plagued with problems, leaving more than 50,000 students still waiting for their grants to be processed
“Minister Quinn launched the new SUSI system amid great fanfare in June saying the process will be ‘quick and easy’ and it will stop students waiting for ‘lengthy periods of time and facing undue hardship as a result of delays’. However the reality for students is far from what was promised,” said Deputy McConalogue.
“As we head into the Christmas period, there are tens of thousands of students in every part of the country who are still waiting for their grants to be processed by this ‘quick and easy’ system. For many of them, the delays are preventing them from registering fully at college and accessing library and computer services. Some have been asked to pay the €2,250 third level registration fee up front until their grants come through. Others who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance have been issued letters saying they will be cut off by November 6th unless they can show proof of college registration, which they are prevented from doing until they receive their grant.
“One of the students in my own constituency sent his application through registered post to SUSI and was initially told it arrived at the offices. After hearing nothing for weeks, he contacted the offices and was told the application was nowhere to be found. He was forced to re-send everything and was told not to send it by registered post as ‘there might not be anyone there to sign for it’. Is the new system so understaffed that a there is no-one available to take in registered post?”
“Minister Quinn was quick to accept praise when SUSI was launched. But now that the grant application system is in crisis, he is nowhere to be seen. These students need an explanation from the Minister and some assurance about what is being done to rectify the situation.”
Deputy McConalogue has called on the Minister to:
- Outline his action plan to address this crisis;
- Ask all third level institutions to ensure that student grant applicants have full access to student services until their grant comes through;
- Direct the HEA to ensure that no students are pressurised into paying the €2,250 registration fee upfront while their grant application is delayed; and
- Liaise with his colleague, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, to ensure that students will not lose their Back to Education Allowance because they cannot show proof of completing college registration