Saturday 25 November 2017

Fifth of students still waiting on college grant

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

MORE than one in five hard-pressed students seeking state support to meet their daily living costs are still waiting for their grant.

Three months into the college year, in some parts of the country, half of of the grant applications have yet to be processed.

The grant, worth up to € 6,355 a year, depending on family circumstances, is paid in three instalments -- the first of which students hope to have by the end of October.

More than four in 10 third-level students now receive a grant. This year, almost 60,000 students have sought a grant, but at the end of last month, 13,000 had not had their application processed.

Union of Students Ireland (USI) president Gary Redmond said that, in the ever worsening fiscal situation, grants had become even more important. Grant applications are processed by either a local authority or a Vocational Education Committee (VEC).

The biggest backlogs are in Cork County Council, Co Dublin VEC, Kildare County Council, Fingal County Council, Limerick County Council and Co Sligo VEC. These have yet to process half their applications.

Fine Gael education spokesman Fergus O'Dowd raised the matter yesterday at a meeting of the Oireachtas Select Committee on Education and Skills, discussing proposed legislation which will centralise the grant application and awarding process into a single body.

He said: "Students are finding it impossible to make ends meet, are being threatened by colleges and are even dropping out, but the minister is doing nothing."

Junior Minister Sean Haughey blamed some of the delays on the recruitment moratorium in the public service. He also said that some applications were not straightforward.

Irish Independent

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