STUDENTS’ UNIONS around the country have begun distributing bags of food to some of their first-year students.
The food parcels come as many students await the payment of the first round of maintenance grants by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), the new body responsible for paying grants to first-year students.
The student who sent us the photo above, taken at GMIT, said the boxes of garlic baguettes (seen just to the right of the photo) were sponsored by a local company and were delivered as returning First Years arrived to collect their free food.
Athlone IT has meanwhile set up a soup kitchen in response to the demand from students who need food.
It is understood that some of the backlog of grant applications, which delayed the processing of some applications by several weeks, came about as a result of incomplete applications made through SUSI’s website.
Students who began filling out an online grant application form, but who may then have realised they were ineligible to apply via SUSI and did not bother to complete their application, were still treated as applicants – meaning a major delay in processing forms.
Figures produced last week indicated that 5,575 students were still awaiting the payment of the first instalment of their college grant, halfway through the year.
Education minister Ruairí Quinn has allocated €3 million to various student assistance funds in efforts to relieve the financial struggle for the students who have been affected by the delays.
The agency says it has now processed all outstanding applications and that any grants which have still not been paid are only pending the submission of additional documentation or of a student’s bank details.
SUSI, which is in its first year of operation, is processing only applications for students who started college last September; grant applications for continuing students remain the responsibility of that student’s local council or VEC.
Some students’ unions have argued that the delay in processing grant applications has forced some students to drop out of college, either because of financial difficulties or because their obligatory €2,250 contribution – which is paid by the grant awarding authority in the case of grant recipients – has not yet been paid.