Galway students losing out on college grants

By Claire Henry

More than 150 Galway college students had their grants withdrawn this year, new figures reveal.

Figures released by the Department of Further and Higher Education show that nationally 743 students who were initially awarded a Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant subsequently had the grant withdrawn upon review – with one five coming from Galway.

The grants, worth up to €9,000, are awarded to third level students to assist with college fees and accommodation costs. 

More than 6,427 applicants from Co Galway applied for a college grant in 2020/21, and 4,800 were successful.

Galway Pulse has seen a 78-page dossier containing emails from students throughout the country who have written to the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris pleading with him to review the current SUSI system. 

Students have complained that they are losing out on grants for being as little as €50 over the threshold. Others who had to take time out, or repeat a year due to illness, claimed they were heavily penalised.  

One student outlined in an email to the Department that he “took time out of college to care for his guardian before she died”. He informed the college that he was dropping out, however the college failed to notify SUSI and kept seeking fee payments from SUSI.

The figures were released to Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín, who said he’s been getting more calls than ever on the issue. 

“When applying for the grant this year, the student was told that not alone was he to be refused the grant, but that he was expected to pay back the fees they had paid last year. This amounted to thousands of euro, money which had never crossed his bank account,” he said.

Another student who also contacted the Department outlined that her mother “is a single mother of three children and currently is out of employment due to the pandemic”. The student told the Department she was homeless as she could no longer afford housing.

Deputy Tóibín has requested that the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris provide the Dáil with an update on his plans to reform SUSI.

Aontú representative for Tuam and Luke Silke said: “I’ve read all of these emails which the Department has released to us, and they make for sad reading.

“I knew the situation was bad, but the knowledge that homeless students or students whose parents are dead are refused assistance is just incredible. SUSI needs to be reformed, and the Government accepts this, but they don’t seem to understand the urgency,” he said.

Pádraic Toomey, President of the NUI Galway Student Union, said: “I have been contacted by many students who have lost their SUSI grant. It is very disheartening for students to lose SUSI as some students might have only earned €50 more than the threshold allows.”

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