Almost 1,000 people have signed a petition aimed at getting level 8 degree courses in Ballyfermot College recognized by the Irish grant system.
Ballyfermot’s BA in Media Production Management is awarded through DCU and so falls under a grey area regarding the eligibility of its students in the grant system.
According to the course co-ordinator, Denis Murray, students were eligible and received grants in the past when the degree was accredited though Thames University in the UK. But since the move to DCU, and the changeover to SUSI in the grants system, students in Ballyfermot have been denied grants.
According to Aisling Ní Bhairéid, who helped set up the petition, one student brought up the issue of her failed grant application to her local TD, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and after he took on the matter she was awarded a grant.
Ní Bhairéid says that since SUSI have taken over it has become very unclear as to why they are in eligible for a grant.
“At the moment I am waiting for a response from Claire Doyle, a supervisor with SUSI, who initially told me that she couldn’t see a reason why I was ineligible”, she told The College View.
Two students from the course have both been denied grants for different reasons to do with the course.
One student was told by SUSI that Ballyfermot was a private college and so was ineligible. Another student in the same degree programme was denied her grant because SUSI said the course was part time, which is incorrect.
Ní Bhairéid said that she and another student brought the issue to TDs Niall Collins (FF), Jerry Buttimer(FG) and Derek Keating (FG).
Mr Buttimer put the question to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn in the Dáil. Minister Quinn said the course was categorized as a PLC course and that the student in question would receive a letter of clarification.
Aisling says the denial of a grant nearly forced her to drop out of her course.
“My own personal situation saw me get a loan of €2000 after Christmas just to ensure I could finish the final few months. I received my refusal the Saturday before Christmas day and so I missed the first week back in January as I was trying to secure a loan” she said.
Another student in a similar position to Aisling is Lizzie Nolan who was also forced to seek a loan in order to finish her programme.
“We were told from the start that we would not receive a grant even though technically I should because of the level of progression. After being told that I wouldn’t receive a grant I didn’t even apply. It has made this college year very difficult. I had to take out a loan of €5000 to cover my fees and rent. In order to stay on top financially I work at least 40 hours a week, so as you can imagine fitting in all my lectures and assignment work is near impossible”, Lizzie said.
The petition was set up on the 5th of February and by early March had already received 0ver 940 signatures in support of their cause.