Sinn Féin spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Rose Conway-Walsh has called on Further and Higher Education to be made accessible and affordable for everyone irrespective of their age, geography or financial circumstances.
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin’s Student Funding survey, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“Too many students and their families are being pushed into poverty trying to pay for higher level education. Many working families are excluded from education grants because the assessment criteria does not accurately reflect income available to the household. This needs to change.
“Assessment on gross income instead of net income is wrong – as is ‘dependent’ assessments for mature students living with their parents and adult students who are estranged from their parents.
“Part-time students must be eligible to apply for SUSI grants. If these elements were changed to enable access to SUSI, then the hardship endured by thousands of students and their families would be eased. We are campaigning to have these and other issues addressed.
“The level of award for the SUSI grant has not bee increased since 2012. The cost of increasing this by 10% would be just over €16m and would represent a sound investment.
“The survey Sinn Féin is launching today seeks to capture the ‘real story’ surrounding access to and participation in higher level education. I am asking that students complete this three-minute online survey to help highlight the reality facing them. The results will be published later this month.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented many additional challenges for students, families and education institutions.
“A severely underfunded system combined with a sharp decline in family incomes makes for a perfect storm of inequality and exclusion. The recent USI report on ‘Student Priorities for the new Government’ outlines the need for change.
“One leaving cert student put it straight to me earlier this week when I asked him if he was going to college.
“He said: ‘Both my parents are working but they cannot afford to pay for me to go. I have younger brothers and sisters. They have to pay the mortgage, car loans and other bills. I’m not eligible for SUSI. I have always worked part-time and full time during the summer but lost this due to Covid-19. I was counting on that.’
“We must listen to those most impacted and put the necessary measures in place to address these inequalities. The grants system ignores the financial reality for students and families. Hard working families need a break and students need investment not exclusion.
- The survey can be completed at surveymonkey.com/r/SUSIgrant