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Students will drop out if university grants don't arriveAPOLOGY: Jacinta Stewart

STUDENTS will drop out of university if they don't receive their grants soon, unions have warned.

Tens of thousands of university students have not received their grant, or been told if they qualify for one.

It is now feared that it will not be until next year when they will receive funding.

But student unions are warning this could be too late for many, who might drop out due to lack of funding.



applications

Their comments come as the head of the body overseeing Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) admitted that it had made "mistakes" and that it was "trying to improve" the system.

Less than a third of first-time applications for grants have been processed.

More than 66,000 students have applied for the third-level grant, but just 3,010 have been paid; 20,350 are at the stage of being awarded.

Some 25,310 are being processed and 20,500 applications are awaiting documentation from students.

The figures were confirmed in a brief given to the Oireachtas Education Committee by Jacinta Stewart, the chief executive of Dublin Vocational Education Committee.

Ms Stewart has said she expects that the majority of students who applied for grants "with full documentation" to receive them by Christmas.

"The system is working, but it needs to work faster," Ms Stewart added.

It is expected that 30,000 grants will be approved by the end of December, but in order to get the money, students will have to supply SUSI with their bank account details.

Meanwhile, Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has apologised to students and parents distressed by the delays in the processing of third-level grant applications.

Mr Quinn said he had already made it clear to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) that it was not acceptable for students to be placed at any disadvantage because of any delays.

In order to cope with the backlog of grant payments, SUSI has increased the number of staff at its support desk and at the assessment unit, with 10 more workers due to start on Monday.

Ms Stewart said packs of grant documents were being assessed at 800 per day.



statement

This has been increased to 1,300 per day and by the end of next week should have hit 1,900 per day.

In a statement, the Union of Student in Ireland (USI) described the problems with SUSI as "a full-blown scandal".

USI president John Logue said: "Even now, tens of thousands of students are still waiting for their applications to be processed and many are close to dropping out of college because they can't afford to pay fees and rent."

hnews@herald.ie


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