With the Leaving Cert results having come out this week the attention of last year’s secondary school graduation classes will move towards college places next week when the CAO offers come out. Since the economic downturn in recent years Mayo County Council has seen an upturn in the number of students applying to the local authority for the third level grant and that looks set to continue this year.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser this week county secretary John Condon said: “It’s too early to say at the moment will we have more applications than last year for the grants. But for the last two to three years we have had around 750 grant applications approved by the council, and in the years before that it was around the 500 mark. So that’s a 50 per cent increase on the numbers being approved that we used to. We will be taking in more applications for the next month or so at least, but judging on the number of applications we have got in so far we would be on course to match last year’s numbers.”
There were complaints in recent years about students being left waiting for a longer than expected time before they received their grant payments, but as Condon explained, that is down to a number of factors. “We can’t pay out the grants until we get the money from the Government and we also run into problems with the students’ applications. You find that bits of information aren’t included that are required before the final approval and then we have to get in contact with the students and get them to send in the correct information we need.”
This year students are able to apply for the grant online and Condon believes that this will speed up the processing. “For the first time students are able to apply to a central agency online and fill in all the relevant details, we’ll get an electronic copy of all the data and that should speed things up in when it comes to the processing also.”
The increase in the numbers applying is also down to a number of economic factors, he explained. “There will be more people qualified for the grant because unfortunately there are people losing their jobs, but also people have taken pay cuts across a number of industries and this could put them under the threshold for the grant.” With the new college term just around the corner, he also urged all those applying for the grant to get their applications in as soon as possible. “The quicker that we get the applications the sooner we can process them and get them approved, so I would urge all students to get their applications in as soon as possible so there will be minimal delays.”