Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has questioned the Government’s commitment to processing all student grants by December given that 4 out of every 10 applications are being returned as ‘incomplete’.
 
Deputy McConalogue referred to a letter issued by the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to Oireachtas members, in which he says that 40% of the unprocessed applications are likely to be returned as incomplete.  The Donegal TD says this means students will be forced to resubmit their applications and will be waiting several more weeks after Christmas to receive their grants.
 
“The Minister’s response to this crisis has been appalling from the start,” said Deputy McConalogue.  “We heard nothing from him for weeks as tens of thousands of students became increasingly anxious about their grant applications. The chronic delays have severely hampered their college experience to the point that some have been forced to drop out, while others are unable to register properly and are blocked from accessing essential student services.
 
“Now in a further insult to students, the Minister and his colleagues are seeking to shift blame from themselves directly onto students.  They are blaming much of the delays on incomplete applications and unavailable documentation.  On the one hand, Minister Quinn says all applications will be processed by December, while on the other hand he expects that 40% of the 15,000 applications still to be checked will be returned as ‘incomplete’.  According to his figures, this amounts to more than 6,000 students who will be forced to apply again when they hear back from the Department.  That’s on top of the 21,000 further students, who have already been asked to ubmit additional documentation.
 
“Wasn’t SUSI supposed to cut through all of these problems?  At this rate, thousands of students will certainly be waiting until the early Spring to receive their grant.  The Minister can attempt to spin the figures whatever way he likes, but the bottom line is that these are the most hard-pressed students who need state support to stay in college. The longer they are waiting, the greater the risk that they will leave third level altogether.
 
“There will be a special meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee next week to question officials at SUSI about these serious problems. In the meantime, students deserve some honesty and practicality from the Minister.  A letter to Oireachtas members to appease Government backbenchers is not enough,” said Deputy McConalogue.