THIRD level students are going hungry and resorting to charity dinners to feed themselves as they continue to wait for their grants to be processed by the new centralised authority, Student Education Support Ireland (SUSI).
The situation has become so bad that hungry students are queuing for 'Penny Dinners' in Cork City because they haven't enough money to feed themselves, Cllr Gillian Wharton Slattery claimed this week
The Labour councillor from Tralee told Kerry County Council that her own son is currently waiting for his grant application to be assessed and that he and many of his friends are now turning to the Cork charity to feed themselves. Cork Penny Dinners is one of the city's oldest organisations that offers daily hot meals to all those in need.
At Monday's meeting of the local authority, there were calls to scrap the new, centralised college grants system and revert to the old system whereby local authorities and VECs administer the scheme. Cllr Seamus Cosaí Fitzgerald asked the local authority to call on Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to abandon the current system because parents are really struggling to help their children through college.
Cllr Michael O'Shea said he knows of a number of families who fear their children will not be in a position to return to college after Christmas if the situation isn't sorted out. He also claimed some students are being denied certain services in college because their fees are not paid. He said the minister either has to scrap the current system or employ more staff to deal with the backlog of grant applications waiting to be processed.
Cllr Michael Cahill described the SUSI system as an absolute disgrace and said the way in which parents and students are being forced to do without grants to which they are entitled is nothing short of appaling. He said that, at present, only a fraction of applications have been processed, proving that the SUSI model is not working.
Cllr Toireasa Ferris claimed that not only are there massive delays with processing grant applications, but SUSI is now looking for attendance records for those who have been approved.
"It's an absolute shambles and the only right thing to do is to scrap it and go back to the old system," she said.