Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Rose Conway-Walsh TD has called on the government to take immediate action to support students to make it to third-level by cutting fees and increasing SUSI supports.
Speaking at the launch of the publication “Telling the Real Story – Students and parents making their voices heard”, the Mayo TD said:
“This year has been extremely hard on young people and their families. Whether prior leaving cert students who have lost out on course places or those struggling to find the money to get by at third-level, not enough has been done to meet the basic needs of students.
“All weekend I have been inundated with calls from students and their parents who feel an acute sense of unfairness. They tell me that they feel cheated out of opportunities they worked so hard for.
“They have lambasted the appeals process which just deals with clerical errors. They cannot appeal the injustice they feel.
“Those who were lucky enough to get a place now are filled with fear of not being able to afford fees, accommodation and other costs.
“Our research shows a deeply concerning picture of high levels of stress and anxiety as students and their families struggle to access third-level education.
“We have seen from our survey that four out of five students tell us that they are concerned or extremely concerned that they won’t have enough money to go to or remain at college. We want to give voice to the individual stories behind these disturbing figures.
“Over the last few months, I have reached out to parents and students and have heard so many stories of real hardship. Here are just some of the responses I received:
“I am concerned about having the financial ability to attend college while still being able to keep a roof over my head”.
“I am scared of going onto third-level because I do not know If I will have the money for basics like food”.
It is clear that the cost of living coupled with the highest fees in the EU is an insurmountable barrier to many:
“Being able to afford tuition is a huge issue for my household… Yet another financial strain on my family. We can barely afford rent”.
“There is palpable anger out there because many people feel our third-level education system is unfair:
“3,000 for fees is a lot of money for average incomes. I was due to work in a job full-time over the summer to help fund my fees. I hate to feel like such a burden to my parents”.
“Many are being pressured to commit to extortionately expensive accommodation before they even have their time tables:
“Student rental accommodation is sky high and goes up every year. We are being taken advantage of”.
“These stories have reaffirmed my conviction that our third level education needs radical reform and my determination to deliver that change.”