Minister Harris needs to heed students’ concerns ahead of CAO results
Labour spokesperson on further and higher education Annie Hoey has called on the Minister to outline his plans to ensure all students who require accommodation will have affordable options available to them. As the housing crisis continues to spiral into every section of society, Senator Hoey said more needs to be done to protect and support students from all sections of society, including a ban on rent increases for student accommodation.
Senator Hoey said:
“Completion of the Leaving Certificate is the end of a very important phase of young people’s lives. It is the start of a new beginning, filled with new opportunities – not only in further and higher education for the majority – but also in many other fields. This weekend will have been both exciting and overwhelming for many students and their families as they received leaving cert results and look forward to the CAO offers tomorrow. This is a daunting time of much change – for many young people, it will be their first time leaving home and moving out, making new friends and finding their own way in the world.
“The last thing any student or family needs to add to their list of concerns is the extortionate price of student accommodation. 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.
“The Minister needs to work with his colleague the Minister for Housing and examine the possibility of imposing a blanket rent freeze on purpose build student accommodation in the third level institutions throughout the country. Media reports outline that institutions like Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick are increasing costs in line with rent pressure zones – surely this can be bypassed to make education more accessible to all.
“Students and their families are under enough financial pressure this year without being forced to pay for accommodation that they may not need. Many of them have had their incomes significantly reduced due to the financial effects of the pandemic and many of the usual part time jobs that students take during the summer are only now coming back on stream.
“The SUSI grant system also needs a rethink by the Minister. My office has been inundated with contact from students who are worried about the late payment of the first instalment of the grant this year – October 8th. In a year where seasonal work was unprecedently interrupted, students deserve better than this from the Minister. Before the pandemic, SUSI grants were already not enough to cover basic costs of living. The delayed payment will only add further worries to families at this already stressful time.
“The Minister needs to ensure the financial supports in place are comprehensive and ensure no student does not take on a learning opportunity due to the housing crisis or financial difficulty. 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.”