Mature students feel let down by 'empty pledge'
AFTER losing his job at SR Technics at 55, John Devlin knew he would have to go back to college if he was ever to work again.
But he now fears that he will have to apply for social welfare because the Government is refusing to provide the funding he and about 55 of his former colleagues need to finish their college courses.
Funding for their courses was provided by the European Globalisation Funding (EGF) -- but that money will run out in October and the Government won't cover the remaining fees.
"We all knew the money would run out this year," Mr Devlin, now 57, told the Irish Independent.
"We knew, the Government knew. So why did they get us to sign up for courses and then pull the rug from under us?
"When they announced the fund, all the colleges jumped on the bandwagon, but now we're being told there's no more money for us to finish."
The Department of Education has sent him a letter in which it suggested the students negotiate with the college -- All Hallows in Mr Devlin's case -- and come to their own arrangement.
The fees were paid to the college from the €7.45m EGF fund, which was allocated to help the 1,135 workers made redundant from SR Technics at Dublin Airport in 2009 so they could retrain and upskill.
Mr Devlin said he finished school in 1969 after completing the equivalent of the Junior Certificate and had been working at SR Technics since 1977.
He commended All Hallows for the support it had given the students, but said the department was leaving them in limbo.
In response to his queries, the Department of Education said that All Hallows College was a "privately funded institution" and therefore wasn't eligible for the Free Fees Scheme, while the course Mr Devlin was doing was "not generally available through the CAO".
"It is also open to the students at All Hallows College to engage with the college to seek a reduced course fee for continuance of the course on a full-time basis but at their own expense.
"It is understood that the Department of Social Protection has already confirmed that if the students remain on the programme beyond the EGF cut-off date they will be entitled to retain their Back to Education Allowance entitlements," the letter said.