Students in limbo over grants backlogNovember 1, 2012 - 8:00am
Hundreds of Galway students are struggling to pay their rent, fuel, or food bills – or even to buy the books they need for College – due to a huge backlog in the payment of grants under a new centralised system which came into effect this year.
Delays in the payment of the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) scheme have left over 15,500 students nationwide without funds since the start of the academic year and caused an unprecedented demand for bailouts from the Student Assistantce Fund at the city’s two third level colleges.
The new SUSI system, which took over responsibility for grant payments from local authorities such as Galway County Council, has been unable to cope with the volume of work generated by over 17,500 new third level students across the country.
The delays to payments have come just weeks after changes in qualifying distance criteria came into effect, ensuring third level students from areas such as Gort, Tuam, and Loughrea have had their grants slashed by 50% if they attend college in Galway.
In order to qualify for full grants, students attending NUI Galway or GMIT have to come from homes at least 45km away from their colleges – and this has seen 100% maintenance grants, which have yet to be processed, being slashed from €3,120 to €1,250 for the year.
Within just one week of the return to College in September, the Students’ Union at NUI Galway was swamped by 1,900 applications for emergency funding under the Student Assistance Fund. That figure is understood to have almost doubled since then.
The slow processing of grants for new students has hit NUI Galway particularly hard, as the College is the most “grant dependent” University in the country with 46% of the student population receiving State funding.
See full story in this week's Connacht Tribune.