Sinn Féin spokesperson on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, Rose Conway-Walsh TD, has called on the government to ensure that the €250 Payment Scheme includes all students to compensate for the upheaval they have experienced this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking after being contacted by many students who find they don’t appear to be eligible, Teachta Conway-Walsh said:
“Last week, the government announced that third-level students are due to get refunds or credit notes worth up to €250. It now appears that many students may in fact be excluded.
“We need to know how exactly students in their final year who have already paid their fees are supposed to benefit from a credit note or will separate arrangements be made for them to be paid.
“Third level institutions do not appear to have systems in place to make these payments.
“It is also our understanding that students who travel to the north of Ireland to study, part-time students and international students from outside the EU have all been excluded.
“This is despite the fact that they have all experienced the same impact from Covid-19 – whether that is in terms of the quality of the blended educational experience or the loss of employment opportunities.
“I welcomed this proposal when it was announced as I understood all students would be receiving the €250 support at this difficult time.
“It would be very disappointing if students living in Letterkenny and studying in Derry are excluded.
“Each year approximately 1,500 students apply to colleges in the north. We should be trying to encourage more cross-border enrolments and an all-island approach to third-level education.
“The largest group of students excluded are those on part-time courses. Part-time students make up approximately 20 percent of all third-level students in the state.
“This means that over 43,029 students on part-time courses are likely to have been excluded. In my own county, Mayo, 989 students are currently excluded.
“This was a real opportunity for the government to give all students a break. I am calling on the Minister to review the scheme and treat all students equally.
“Many of these students and their families have been fleeced by accommodation providers who still refuse to refund money for accommodation they are prevented from using.
“Students cannot continue to be the ‘Cash Cows’ for educational institutions and landlords.”