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2 December 2012 Edition

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SUSI shambles forces students out of university

• 200 students protest outside the Department of Education on 22 November calling on Ruairí Quinn to keep his promise and not increase fees

Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien described the SUSI system as ‘an unmitigated disaster’

STUDENTS are being forced to drop out of third-level education and emigrate as they cannot afford to continue in college due to the failure of the new Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant applications process to cope with the volume and its own red tape.

The SUSI system was launched in June as a more efficient and cost-effective way of processing applications. Previously, 66 local authorities or VECs (Vocational Education Committees) handled grant applications and processing.

Students started reporting that it was shambles. There were thousands of delays, missing applications, unprocessed applications, poor communication and inadequate responses from SUSI.

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The issue was first raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien in early October following a deluge of emails and phone calls from worried students who had been expecting to receive their grants, or at least responses from SUSI, as third-level universities and colleges reopened in late September.

The failure to receive grants in time meant that some students could not register at their college or access facilities.

Jonathan O’Brien managed to secure cross-party support and make SUSI representatives appear before the Oireachtas Education Committee to answer questions. It was revealed then that SUSI had received 56,935 applications before the closing date of 31 August; by the beginning of November, 52,430 were still awaiting to be processed.

Deputy O’Brien described the SUSI system as “an unmitigated disaster”, adding:

“In one of a number of cases I have dealt with, a first-year student from Cork City attending a nursing degree course in Dundalk Institute of Technology has still not received her grant despite applying through SUSI in mid-June.

“The young woman in question comes from a one-parent family and has four other siblings. Despite the best efforts of her mother, she is struggling to pay her rent and is behind on her bills.

“This is someone who wants to train to be a nurse and make a positive contribution to society who is being forced to drop out of college because a grant to which she is fully entitled to has not been paid.”

Student’s dreams shattered by SUSI

 SUSI

ONE student’s letter to Jonathan O’Brien was read to Government TDs and Education Minister Ruairí Quinn in the Dáil during Leader’s Questions on Tuesday 13 November.

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“Like many other students I have experienced many delays in the system that throughout I found farcical,” the distraught young man said. “My dream is over. My goal of education and self-improvement is over. My life of poverty, as it has been for the last few weeks, is just not a viable option anymore. I will have to look to alternatives now, most likely emigration.

“SUSI has caused me a great deal of stress from the start. I was one of the first to apply to the system in June and despite sending back documents as early as possible I still await an answer.”

The student outlined that his parents are retired farmers and have a combined annual income from pensions and a land lease of just €18,600. Despite sending in the appropriate tax notice of assessment documents, SUSI requested a full set of profit and loss accounts.

“I pleaded with them. I told them my parents receive so little they don’t pay tax. I remonstrated with them that the tax Notice of Assessment clearly illustrates my parents’ combined earnings. No, I was told, it was not good enough. So off I went and paid an accountant money I did not have to do a set of profit and loss accounts that are clearly not needed. The tax Notice of Assessment clearly states the same thing. As of today’s date I’m still unsure what their outcome is with regards my grant process. On the phone, they tell me I’m still being assessed.

“Anyway, it is irrelevant. I’m leaving the education system now. I’m leaving a course I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m leaving my goals and dreams. And I will most likely be leaving Ireland very soon.

“I would like that you as TDs/Senators to highlight the inadequacy of this system, to change and modify it for a better process. My life takes a very different angle from tomorrow. Don’t let others do what I have to do. Ireland needs a bright, vibrant and educated workforce for its future. It’s just a pity I won’t be part of that future.”

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An Phoblacht
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