Students left waiting more than 14 weeks for grants

Students are being left waiting for prolonged periods of time to receive decisions on grant applications, The University Observer has learned.

New figures released from the Students’ Union have shown that Meath and Mayo County Councils fare worst in paying grants to students, with both councils paying final instalments on January 29th 2010. Similarly, students who have applied for grants are still being kept waiting on decisions and are facing numerous delays.w

The implications of this for UCD students, aside from the obvious struggle to pay rents and fees, include the fact that students who have not paid their fees cannot borrow books from the library or receive exam results.

The University Observer spoke to a postgraduate student from South Dublin who has been affected by the delay: “I’m a Masters student in Arts and Celtic Studies. I applied for my grant in August. Because I’m a postgraduate student, my grant would cover both my tuition fees and give my money in the form of a grant.

“I sent in all the official documentation that they required when I applied, but now they’re looking for more detailed documentation such as my earning and my current status of employment, so obviously that takes a bit of time to come through. I sent them that about a month ago, and now they’re coming back and saying they need more stuff.”

The student explained the implications of not having paid your fees yet: “If my fees aren’t paid, I can’t get my exam results. My exam results will presumably be out in January sometime, and at this stage I don’t know if my local authority will have paid my fees by then. So quite possibly, I won’t have my exam results.”

However, the immediate issue for students who have not paid their fees is being unable to borrow books from the library: “This has proven really stressful, obviously, for postgraduate essays we have to have a significant amount of secondary material sourced and a significant amount of reading done for our essays.”

He added: “I have an access card to the library which enables me to sit down and read books, which is good, but I really need to be able to borrow books and avail of the postgraduate facilities in the library and I can’t do that at the moment.”

The student also explained the implications involved in that they cannot begin thesis preparation without being able to borrow books from the library.

The difference between county councils in paying grant instalments is considerable. Last year, Waterford City Council was 26 weeks ahead of Meath and Mayo in terms of payment.

UCDSU President Paul Lynam added: “The gap between the best and worst county councils is something that must be addressed immediately. Students cannot suffer financial hardship based on what county they live in.”