Concern at college grant processing backlog in Westmeath
Westmeath TD Robert Troy has voiced concern this week that just 20% of student grant applications from Westmeath and Longford have been processed to date. Deputy Troy has said he is extremely worried that students in the midlands are being left struggling without grants they are entitled to, because of the alarming rate of third level grant applications being refused so far this year, and the massive backlog in unprocessed applications. Over 2,250 applications from Longford and Westmeath are currently awaiting a decision, 1500 alone from the Lake County. In reply to parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil, the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn confirmed that 72% of the grant applications processed so far this year have been refused. In addition to this, 78% of applicants are still waiting to hear back from the Department of Education. Deputy Troy said: "The situation in the midlands is extremely serious. In Westmeath just 22% of applications lodged by students have been processed while in Longford the situation is even worse where just 17% of grant applications have received a response. "It seems unbelievable to me that the Department has rejected nearly 3 out of every 4 applications processed to date. This is leaving students without badly need grants that they're entitled to, almost two months after the start of the college term. "It is becoming clear that the new SUSI system is riddled with problems. This system was designed to speed up the administering of third-level grants and to prevent incomplete applications. So how is it that over 2,250 applications from students in Westmeath and Longford still haven't been processed? How is it that almost 20,000 applications across the country, which have been classed as incomplete, slipped through the new system? He complained that the Education Minister must urgently explain the massive delays and what he called the alarming rate of rejections with the new system. "It is nearly November and there are still 2,250 students in Westmeath and Longford waiting to hear if they will receive a grant. They need to know how long they are now expected to wait before they hear back from the Department. I am calling for a statement from Minister Quinn outlining the problems with the processing system and what is being done to address these problems and end the uncertainty for students."