26 September 2002 Edition

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Students get another raw deal


Sinn Féin spokesperson on education, Seán Crowe TD has criticised what he termed the "shambolic mishandling" of this year's grant application process by the Department of Education. Crowe was referring to delays that have occurred in the process of supplying grants to those students who are entitled to them.

Not content with forcing the majority of the student body to pay double fees this year to avail of the state's 'free' education system, the government, in creating these delays, is now causing havoc for those few deemed eligible to receive the meagre financial aid.

The Dublin Southwest TD said, "because of the delays in the issuing of grant application forms by the Department of Education to the local VECs, thousands of students across the state are still waiting on a response regarding their application for grant support in order to attend university. The entire grant system has been exposed as a shambles."

Students right across Dublin, who should now be preparing themselves for the first term of the academic year, are having to deal with the stress of not having money to pay their fees.

"Students receiving a grant do not have to pay the exorbitant registration fee. With students registering at many universities in the next few weeks those eligible for a grant will be forced to pay the registration fee or be denied access to student services," the TD added.

"If colleges insist on every student who does not have a grant form paying the increased fee, then this could cause serious financial hardship to the lower income families involved.

"It is my understanding that some universities have adopted a policy of issuing temporary student ID to those waiting for a response on their grant applications. I would ask other third level institutions to adopt these procedures to handle this problem."

Sinn Féin councillor Larry O'Toole has also slammed what he termed the government's "ineptitude" in helping students further their education.

"Fees are not the only expense faced by students at the beginning of each college year. Students from Dublin who are eligible for grants, receive very little, in fact less than their country counterparts, because it is presumed that those from Dublin will live at home while attending college. This fails to take into account two things; firstly that just because a students parents lives in Dublin, it does not necessarily mean that that student can live at home. Many young people with family problems are forced into a position of renting somewhere, without adequate financial support from the government, because their family is resident in Dublin. The second factor not considered is that even if they are living at home, some students families are so poor that they cannot 'live off them' as the government suggest they do," the councillor said.

"The price of attending college, with the government's help, is growing each year. Grants remain low, book prices are always on the rise, as are food prices. Throw into this, travel, added college expenses like gym membership, sky-high rents if they're unfortunate enough, and a student is facing debt or ridiculous working hours to get through it."

Time delays in the supply of the grants, O'Toole added, "are just adding insult to injury".

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