Increased SUSI grants needed too
While the government has doubled the funding for the Student Assistance Fund, Labour Higher Education spokesperson Annie Hoey said that the Minister should have secured increases to SUSI grants and thresholds to support as many as possible too.
Senator Hoey said:
“The Cabinet have decided to double the funding for the Student Assistance Fund but have done nothing for the vast majority of students who will struggle financially in the next academic year.
“Due to the lockdown the seasonal work that many students relied on is gone. This will have a huge financial impact on students. Before the pandemic, SUSI grants were already not enough to cover basic costs of living. The range of an SAF award would be from €300 to €700 so making a welcome difference but just about enough to cover one week of lost summer wages.
“The new minister has brought forward a token gesture that gives the impression of action rather than making the major changes to the SUSI grant system that are needed to make college affordable.
“Third level education, especially when it is distant from home has moved out of reach for too many students because of rental costs and the exorbitant costs of fees- now the highest in Europe.
“Incoming third level stidents have had a really raw deal due to the Covid crisis and have unnecessarily suffered on account of poor decision making and weak leadership in relation to the Leaving Cert. The Minister needs to ensure the financial supports on place are comprehensive and ensure no student does not take on a learning opportunity due to the COVID crisis.
“The Programme for Government commits to reviewing SUSI eligibility and adjacency rates, something the Labour Party has called for over a number of years. The Minister needs to tell us what it will involve and when he will carry that out.
“Many families will struggle even more with the financial burden of sending their children to third level and the Minister needs to clarify what arrangements will be put in place to support families who have had a significant reduction in their income this year.
“The current SUSI eligibility criteria is too rigid and requires more flexibility, particularly for individual cases which the current system does not allow. An allowance needs to be made for students who are forced to work throughout the term to make ends meet and for students required to undertake unpaid work placements.”