Third level Students from the Cork City area can once again
expect long delays in their grants, according to Sinn Féin Councillor
Fiona Kerins. She was speaking in response to an answer to a question
she put to the Council last night when it was stated that no special
arrangements had been put in place to ensure students got their grants
on time this year.
According to Councillor Kerins, 'the delays in the payment of student
grants have been a thorny issue for many years in Cork. Often grants
aren't paid until after Christmas, when it is clear that students need
this money now at the start of term to pay rent deposits and buy books
etc. As a result every year many students are forced into hardship
simply because their grant is not paid on time. Unfortunately, Cork
City Council has one of the worst records in this regard'.
'Those who suffer most are students from low income and rural families.
With grant payments delayed by up to 4 months many have to borrow to
enable them to pay rent and utilities. In extreme cases some can be
faced with no option but to drop out. Students can also be left waiting
months before a decision on their application is even made.Considering
the attempts being made to try to improve access to third level
education for people from lower socio-economic groups this is
'In recognition of the problem which affects other local authorities
and not just Cork, the current Government is currently introducing
legislation to centralise the grant award process in the hands of VECs.
However the delays in getting the new Student Support Bill enacted mean
that local authorities should have a particular responsibility in
trying to get their act right this year. Everyone knows that the
academic year starts in September/October every year. It's not nuclear
physics we're talking about'.
Background information: 40% of those attending third level education
receive state support.These monies are currently administered by 33
VECs and 33 local authorities. Some 56,000 third-level students
qualified for support last year with the VECs handling about two-thirds
of the applications.They will take over the remainder from local
councils when the Student Support Bill is passed. Ms Hanafin first
announced the selection of VECs to run the schemes in June last year,
and planned to introduce the necessary laws in time for students
applying for grants this summer. The statutory scheme will mean each
VEC must process applications by a target date every year. However, the
Bill has been delayed.