Government must take action to tackle the cost of living crisis for students

Senator Annie Hoey image
09 February 2022
  • Time to deliver free public transport for young people
  • Cassells Report must be implemented

Labour Higher and Further Education spokesperson Annie Hoey has demanded Minister Harris develop proposals to help struggling students with the increased cost of living. Pointing to the Daft report published today outlining astronomical increases in rent, Senator Hoey said government has remained silent on proposals to help students with the increased cost of living.

Senator Hoey said:

“Students have been at the coalface of the rental crisis for years with some now paying into the thousands, or even more tragically living in homelessness, while trying to get their qualifications. My office has been inundated with stories from students who once would have moved out but now can’t afford to do so. Instead they are commuting long hours to their course, but the cost of transport is so high that they are barely making any savings.

“It’s time for Minister Harris to put pressure on his cabinet colleagues to deliver the much trumpeted Youth Travel Card that was tacked on at the last minute to the budget in response to Labour’s costed proposals for free youth public transport. Transport affordability and access remains a huge issue for students in terms of the cost of living, as well as having a crucial role to play in climate action.

“I was glad to see that Minister Harris was bringing proposals to Cabinet on the cost of fees but the road ran out a long time ago on the funding crisis in higher education. The Cassells Report, published in 2016 has provided us with a pathway for an education system that is fully publicly funded, and free at the point of entry. It is beyond time we implemented those recommendations.

“For several years the Labour Party has outlined a costed plan to reduce the €3,000 student contribution charge towards eventually scrapping it, but only now are we seeing some action from the Minister. Irish students have some of the highest fees in the EU, and Labour supports a publicly funded model of higher education as outlined in the Cassells report. A well educated workforce is critical to our future economic growth, and further education should be accessible to all students irrespective of means.

“Students are some of the most poorly paid workers in Ireland and usually occupy seasonal and precarious jobs. Indeed, the increase to the minimum wage in January has been swallowed up by inflation and students are under fierce pressure trying to make ends meet. All employers must reflect today on whether they are paying their student workers a living income that can enable them to pay for their fees, their books, their rent. Unfortunately we know that too many students are struggling.

“It’s time for Minister Harris to come before the Seanad and outline his plans for future funding for Higher Education and how we are going to take care of our students struggling with the cost of living. Now that we have a full dedicated seat at cabinet for Further and Higher education, I see no reason why students should not be giving priority.”

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