The delay in SUSI grants being processed is affecting third level students across the country. The Daily Shift’s Aoife Bennett analyses how RTE’s Frontline covered the issue…
To say Monday night’s Frontline programme on RTÉ was intense is an understatement. The broadcast last night dealt with student grants and SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland), the scheme set up by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
The scheme was intended to replace the 66 county councils and VEC’s who provided students with grants for third level, yet presenter Pat Kenny highlighted that this scheme employed only 65 workers. With an estimated 66,000 students applying for a grant, that gives each worker an average of 1,000 grant applications to examine. This figure, even to us, seems ridiculously unattainable, so delays in the grant were to be expected.
Of the students who applied for a grant this year, over 9,500 were rejected straight off, while a further 10,700 students have been told their grant is ‘pending’ with no indication as to when they will receive it. As well as that, 20,000 students have been asked to provide further documentation.
With most colleges halfway through their first semester, many students have been left with no way to fund themselves, for either personal or academic purchases.
Is it time for another overhaul of the system? Why are students, who perfectly fit the criteria for a grant, now being told that they are no longer allowed to get one?
The national and county averages for students who receive grants was also discussed at length. In Dublin, one student in every three receives the third level grant, while in Donegal this figure is three times as high, with nine in ten students receiving a grant. Labour TD Aodhan O Riordán put this down to the fact that Donegal people tend to be employed in agricultural activities, rather than in the public sector. Figures suggest that students who come from a farming or self-employed background are twice as likely to receive a maintenance grant as the children of PAYE workers.
Opinions were heard from students in colleges dotted around the country. DIT’s Alexa Meehan applied for a grant but hasn’t heard anything substantial back from SUSI. The implications of this have had a serious affect on her studies; as Alexa has been unable to pay her registration fees, she now cannot access any of the notes that her lecturers have put online. Imagine having to study for that upcoming exam without your notes!
DCU’s Ciara O’Dwyer also said that she has struggled in college so far. She believes if it weren’t for the grant, which she still has yet to receive, there is a high chance she will have to drop out of her course.
Fianna Fáil Minister Charlie McConalouge acknowledged that while there are some difficulties in funding third level education, ensuring that all eligible students get their grant shouldn’t be a complicated process. “What we’ve seen here is a bad situation made of something that should be quite simple,” he said. He also stated that as the crisis worsened in the last few weeks, “Minister Quinn has been nowhere to be seen.”
John Logue, President of the Union of Students Ireland (USI) believes that some people could be waiting until after December to receive their grant, and that some parents are now using their discretionary funds, intended for other purposes, to fund their children’s education.