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Students will be forced to drop out of college due to grants chaos – Doherty

22 October, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty has criticised the Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe for failing to intervene in the situation whereby, due to the unprecedented number of student grant applications, many third level students in Donegal will now have to wait until January to receive their student grant payments, these students are unregistered and are being left without access to many services in the colleges.

Speaking in the Seanad last night Senator Doherty said:

“This year has seen an unprecedented rise in applications for third level maintenance grants. Because of understaffing in Donegal VEC and Donegal County Council many of the students applying for these grants will not receive their grant until January 2010. This is a ludicrous situation and one with massive consequences for students.

“Many have been unable to register and as a consequence will be unable to sit their mid-term examinations starting next week. They will not have been issued a student number and will be unable to access many essential facilities in the college.

“More worryingly is the fact the many students depend on this grant and without it have no alternative but to drop out of college altogether and join the rest of the country on the dole queues. This is causing real distress to students and families across the county and will ultimately have a negative effect on the economy.

“The facts are that the Higher Student Grant scheme has been dumped on to Donegal Council by the Department of Education without the resources required to deliver it. Donegal County Council will soon have lost over 280 staff members or approximately one in five of its workforces due to Government cutbacks. Yet, they are expected to deliver more services on behalf of central government.

“There have been hundreds more student grant applications lodged with Donegal County Council and Donegal VEC this year than last. Both bodies are struggling to cope with the demand. Local authorities and student unions have repeatedly warned the Government and the Department of Education that they need to reform the grants system but these appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

“The Government must take full responsibility for these delays and deploy emergency resources to ensure that no families or students miss out on their third level education.” ENDS

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