Loss of Hope at the Hands of SUSI

Every person has the fundamental right to an education. So what’s putting both young and older people off the idea of studying at third level these days? With the release of another harsh budget, financial pressure appears the most predominant reason behind the issue.

Financial worries shouldn’t deter anyone from wanting to pursue further education. But with the huge volume of students left in ‘limbo’ as a result of the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) system, who could have hope?

The SUSI system was established this year as the new ‘single awarding authority for all new grant applications’ and it was crafted to replace over 65 varying authorities which processed educational grant applications. The main aim of SUSI was to speed up the entire process to ensure ‘peace of mind’ for students, yet last month still only one in 16 applications had been approved.

Thus, the system is actually making it more difficult for students to stay in third level education.

Applied social care student Alison Martin is feeling the affects of SUSI. Alison is a first year student at the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and told The College View about her “dealings” with the system thus far.

“I sent my documents in last summer, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to go to college without the grant, due to my financial position. I kept ringing to make sure they got my documents and the SUSI staff kept saying they’re probably in the mailing room. Eventually they said they had received everything, so that was fine”.

Alison had an urge to contact the authority after seeing the recent update on the news stating that around 45,000 students’ grants still had not been processed. “I phoned them and they said they had nothing belonging to me, nor had they proof of ever receiving anything. I was outraged”.

After re-sending all of the relevant documentation, staff at SUSI told Alison that the documents would be sent to an assessor but that they have “no time-frame” as to when she will hear from them again.

Deputy Michael Lowry made a valid point last month in stating that “the SUSI system has been a disaster with a complete breakdown and lack of information passing between the applicant and the awarding body.”
If students are lucky enough to have a part-time job, they may not feel the brunt of SUSI’s slow processes as much as an unemployed student. Alison has a job for the Christmas period: “I’m trying to pay my way at home, cover the cost of transport to college and save money. But if I don’t get approved for my grant next year I’ll be forced to leave college.”

Alison, like so many students, is yet to discover the fate of her SUSI grant application and is not likely to hear anything until 2013. A system which leaves students worrying about whether they will be able to continue in education in the new year does not leave much hope for 2013.

Catríona Hughes

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