Substantial time delays in the processing of student grants and other funds are continuing to cause huge difficulties and undue stress for students in Galway and across the country, according to Fine Gael Seanad Education spokesperson, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames.
“More than one in five students are forced to wait in excess of 90 days for funding,” said Senator Healy Eames yesterday as she prepared to lead the Student Support Bill for her party in the Seanad. It is hoped that the new Bill will go some way in addressing student disatisfaction with the current flawed system of processing student grants and funds.
Senator Healy Eames that through the Student Support Bill she will be proposing: a ‘one-stop-shop’ payments and entitlements service which will act as a single point of contat for students making a claim; the inclusion of part-time courses when State finances are improved; and an improved appeals system.
“Further stress has been caused by changes to student maintenance grant criteria introduced in Budget 2011 and the substantial €500 increase to the registration fee. The unfortunate reality is that the third-level sector is seriously under-funded and education quality is in real danger of being compromised. Fianna Fáil and the Greens have sidestepped the issue by increasing the registration fee, reintroducing fees by the back door, and cutting student grants, placing an impossible burden on already stressed families.
“Fine Gael believes such a blunt approach is a short-sighted attempt to plug the black hole in the third-level sector finances and will not facilitate strong participation at third-level. We have put forward a fairer proposal called 'The Third Way' which provides for a form of graduate contribution to be paid by the graduate following completion of their studies, when they reach a defined income threshold. We are reviewing this model in line with the financial situation facing the Exchequer. Notably, a meeting of students in NUIG told me they would find this preferable to placing a further financial burden on their parents at this point.”
Senator Healy Eames concluded: “Education is a driver of growth and central to our economic recovery – a fact that will be kept to the forefront of my party's deliberations in tackling the third level issue and ensuring adequate and affordable education for all.