USI – New Board


THE UNION OF Students in Ireland (USI) has today elected Roscommon native Joe O’Connor as its new president for 2013/2014 at its annual congress.

O’Connor has served as the president of the GMIT Student’s Union for two years before this and was also previously the Vice President for Welfare.

The USI said today that O’Connor, who has an honours degree in Accounting and a Masters in Strategy and Innovation Management has personal experience of coping with the increasing cost of third level education, having relied upon the maintenance grant throughout his time in college.

Speaking today, O’Connor said the the need for “effective national representation is more acute than ever” as families struggle with increasing fees and “dwindling student supports”.

“At this time, 10,000 vulnerable students are still waiting on their first maintenance grant payment from SUSI and countless secondary school students wonder if they can afford to attain what should be their right; an education that best equips them to play their part in our country’s recovery,” he said.

“I have spent the last three years dealing with students facing these enormous difficulties first-hand. These experiences will not only inform my term as USI President but also provide the necessary motivation in our fight to protect access to higher education.”

UCD’s Paddy Guiney was elected to the position of Vice President for Campaigns. Guiney has stated that re-affiliating UCD is one of his top priorities.

Results for other positions on USI Officer Board 2013/2014:

  • VP for Academic Affairs and Quality Assurance: Cat O’Driscoll
  • VP for Welfare: Denise McCarthy
  • VP for Equality and Citizenship: Laura Harmon
  • VP for the Border, Midlands and Western Region: Kevin Donoghue
  • VP for the Southern Region: Ciara Guinan
  • VP for the Irish Language: Féidhlim Seoighe

Grants Backlog

THE HUGE BACKLOG of students forced to wait months before receiving their student grant has been almost completely cleared, with just 619 applications left to be processed.

At its peak, 55,000 applications were still waiting for a decision as the newly-introduced allocation system SUSI struggled to cope.

However despite the small number of remaining applications to be processed, 21,095 applications have been marked as incomplete – meaning many students may still have to resubmit details or application forms, five months after term began in most third level institutions, if they are to receive a grant. Some students who abandoned their grant application form were still treated as applicants, which was part of the reason blamed for the delay in processing.

Students’ unions around the country began handing out boxes of goods to students who were struggling financially as they waited for their grants to be processed, while one, Athlone IT, set up a soup kitchen to provide food for students who needed food.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn told the Dáil that there will be external review of SUSI’s business processes over the coming weeks to improve the system for the next academic year.

The figures show of 67,352 applications, 46,257 contained all the necessary documentation. Of these, just over 29,000 were awarded while 16,000 were accepted.

Ruairí Quinn allocated an additional €3 million to the Student Assistance Fund, which helps students who are experiencing severe financial hardship, this month in a bid to help students who may be suffering due to late or non-payment of their grant.

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Student Food Boxes

THOUSANDS OF THIRD level students around the country are being given boxes of food by Students’ Unions as they continue to wait for their grants to be paid.

The Union of Students in Ireland said students are going to college hungry, while one college has set up a soup kitchen to provide meals for students who can’t afford food.

New figures show that 5,575 students are still waiting to receive their first grant payment, more than four months after the college year began.

USI President John Logue said that many of the students were “desperate” for financial assistance.

“While some Students’ Unions can provide basic assistance as regards food and modest welfare loans, they cannot pay rent or fees for students who rely on grants to cover these costs,” he said. “The chronic delay with grant payments is stretching the patience of landlords to breaking point”.

The USI has called on the Minister for Education to put pressure on SUSI, the new grant system, to ensure all payments are received by the end of the month.

Ruairí Quinn acknowledged in November that some students would not receive their grants until January.

John Logue said that a “significant” number of Students’ Unions around the country are giving food boxes to students who come to college hungry.

The Athlone Institute of Technology has set up a soup kitchen in response to the demand from students who need food.

The new centralised system introduced last summer to replace the old system of local authorities administering grants has been heavily criticised over the long delay before students are told whether they will receive a grant or not, as well as an additional wait before the grant is paid.

The USI said SUSI has “singularly failed to make the grant processing system more efficient and, as a result, many students are in serious financial difficulty”.

Of the 65,000 applications to SUSI, more than 50,000 students were still waiting for a decision on their grant by the end of October, at which time SUSI had made a decision on just 12,000 applications. The backlog had dropped to 21,000 applications by the end of November

SUSI was forced to take on extra temporary staff in December to deal with the backlog




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