The severe delays in processing student grants this year has left many students unable to access essential college services, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Charlie McConalogue.

Deputy McConalogue has called on the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to intervene following reports that students whose grant applications still haven’t been processed are having great difficulty registering properly in their colleges.

“I have spoken to many students over the past number of weeks who say they are restricted from using library and computer services until they have proof that they are in receipt of a student maintenance grant. Students in receipt of Back to Education Allowance are also being threatened with having their payments being cut off, as they are unable to provide evidence to social welfare offices of having registered for their college course,” said Deputy McConalogue.

“There are also reports of students being asked to pay the registration fee upfront if they want to access services while they wait to hear back from the Department about their grant application.  They are told they will then be reimbursed by the college once the grant has come through. This is completely unfair and unrealistic. How are these students who are in need of state support to get through college expected to fund €2,250 upfront?

“The massive backlog in processing student grants is causing chaos for thousands of students at third level institutions nationwide.  Figures released to me through a series of Parliamentary Questions last week show that nearly 52,000 out of the 65,000 student grant applicants this year are still waiting for their grants to be processed.  Of those that have been processed, the Department has turned away almost 3 out of every 4 applications.

“The tens of thousands of students who are still waiting for their grants cannot be penalised because of problems within Minister Quinn’s department. I am again calling on the Minister to outline what is being done to clear the massive backlog of applications. In the meantime the Minister and the Higher Education Authority must immediately direct third level institutions not to punish those students who are waiting for grant approval.”