Spanish university students have finally started receiving their state-sponsored grants just one month before the end of the academic year, after teething problems with a recently reformed system of support.
Although the grant application process began last August and ended in October, thousands of students have waited months to receive the full amount of their grants owing to administrative delays. Some have spent most of the year not knowing if they would get any money at all, let alone how much or when.
Spain’s secretary of state for education, training and universities, Montserrat Gomendio, specifically blamed Catalonia for the delays nationwide. She told the national Congress of Deputies that the region had been late in providing data on student numbers, causing knock-on effects for the whole country.
Spain’s state-run grant system is intended to help students from poorer backgrounds cover tuition fees, living and transportation costs. Previously these costs were calculated using a single set of fixed criteria related to both family income and academic merit.
But under reforms led by José Ignacio Wert, minister for education, culture and sports, grants now have two parts. One is dependent on a student’s family income calculated using fixed parameters, and the second is based on variable criteria including the total number of applicants and a student’s grades. Those variable criteria have resulted in the delay to payments.
On average, students will receive €300 (£244) less than last year. But the newspaper El País reported that the formula is so complex that some may receive more money while others will get significantly less.
Luis Cereijo, president of the Coordinadora de Representantes Estudiantes de Universidades Públicas de España (CREUP), the national association representing more than 700,000 students, told Times Higher Education that the new system was a “social catastrophe”.
He also blamed the government for a lack of transparency in drafting the new system, saying that there has been “no dialogue with students and universities…no consensus”.
The delays have meant that many students have had to resort to bank loans to cover their living costs, and others being forced to drop out entirely, he said.