Councillor Andrew McGuinness has slammed a recent request by Labours Deputy Ann Phelan who asked students to be ‘patient’ with the new SUSI grant system. Cllr McGuinness said that it is ‘impossible for students to be patient with a failed system when they have already been left stranded in limbo and in fear that they may have to drop out of college.’
“I’m disappointed at Deputy Ann Phelan’s request that students be ‘patient’ when public representatives right across the political divide should know too well from their constituency clinics the pain that families are experiencing as a result of the failed system that is SUSI,” said Cllr Andrew McGuinness.
“I can’t see how this government’s commitment to processing all student grants by December will work given that four out of every 10 applications are being returned as ‘incomplete’.
“Hundreds of local students do not know if they will be able to continue in third level education as they simply cannot afford to. Education should be a priority but this Government are ignoring that and what’s worse is the fact that they are not treating the issue with any kind of real urgency. Asking students to be patient is just a slap in the face,” said Cllr Andrew McGuinness.
“Education Minister Ruairí Quinn recently sent a letter to Oireachtas members, in which he says that 40% of the unprocessed applications are likely to be returned as incomplete. This means that students will be forced to resubmit their applications and will be waiting several more weeks after Christmas to receive their grants.
“The Minister’s response to this crisis has been appalling and the same can be said about his Deputies. He has been silent for weeks as tens of thousands of students became increasingly anxious about their grant applications. The chronic delays have severely hampered their college experience to the point that some have been forced to drop out, while others are unable to register properly and are blocked from accessing essential student services.
“Minister Quinn says all applications will be processed by December, while on the other hand he expects that 40% of the 15,000 applications still to be checked will be returned as ‘incomplete’. According to his figures, this amounts to more than 6,000 students who will be forced to apply again when they hear back from the department. That’s on top of the 21,000 further students, who have already been asked to submit additional documentation.
“Wasn’t SUSI supposed to cut through all of these problems? At this rate, thousands of students will certainly be waiting until the early Spring to receive their grant. The Minister can attempt to spin the figures whatever way he likes, but the bottom line is that these are the most hard-pressed students who need state support to stay in college. The longer they are waiting, the greater the risk that they will leave third level altogether.
“Students deserve some honesty and practicality from the Minister and Deputy Phelan should be fighting on behalf of Kilkenny students not asking them to be ‘patient’,” concluded Cllr Andrew McGuinness.