Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has said that the Society of St Vincent De Paul spending €2 million last year to 600 students in third-level education must serve as a wake-up call for government.
Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“St Vincent De Paul has reported that more and more students are reaching out to them for help each year. It is clear that third-level education is becoming unattainable for many families.
“Too many students and their families are facing into another term of struggle to keep ahead of unprecedented costs of accessing third level education.
“SUSI supports have not kept pace with the rising cost of living and others are excluded altogether. While this year saw the first increase in this maintenance grant, that was the first increase since the supports were introduced over 10 years ago.
“The government commissioned an independent review that was published last year that called for a 25 percent increase in the amount of the supports in order to keep up with the rising cost of living. That increase was based on meeting pre-pandemic costs and did not take into account the last two years of inflation.
“The housing and cost of living crises are affecting all aspects of our society. Further and higher education is no exception. This has the potential to set back years in terms of increased access into third-level education.
“We have seen rents increase by 82 percent over the last 10 years. The cost of rent has now become the single biggest barrier to third-level education and has put rural communities at a particular disadvantage.
“The government recently announced an increase to the Student Assistance Fund. While this is welcome, it will only serve to paper over the cracks.
“What is needed is a comprehensive plan to reduce the cost of education and increase SUSI supports. Sinn Féin is ready to work with the government to make these reforms.”