Sunday 3 May 2015

Student claims financial pressure may force him out of college before he even starts

Thousands set for Dublin's first national student rally in around three years

Published 03/09/2014 | 14:06

Thousands of students from around Ireland are set to attend the first national student rally in Dublin to take place in around three years.

The rally, which is being organised by the Union of Students in Ireland, will take place on October 8 and will mainly highlight the massive difference between the cost of attending third level education and the average grant a student receives from the Government.

Pictured at the Union of Students in Ireland pre-budget submission and education policy platform for the coming year was USI members Kieron Pierson, Sarah O'Shea, Tom Healy, Ciara Murnane, Patrick Maher and Luke Green. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
Pictured at the Union of Students in Ireland pre-budget submission and education policy platform for the coming year was USI members Kieron Pierson, Sarah O'Shea, Tom Healy, Ciara Murnane, Patrick Maher and Luke Green. Picture: Conor McCabe Photography.

A recent study from Bank of Ireland shows the cost of attending college is around €13,000, while the average grant comes in at around €3,000.

The rally's announcement was made during the USI's pre-budget submission, which asks the Government to protect the Student Maintenance Grant and the Back to Education Allowance. A number of students who are in a poor financial situation attended the launch and spoke about their worries.

Daniel Waugh (22) is set to begin a DIT postgraduate course in public relations soon, but a lack of finances and no accommodation sorted means he's concerned he may have to drop out before he even begins.

"I couldn't go to work one day, because the night before it just hit me. I only have around €4,000 saved up and I started to get anxious panic attacks. I couldn't sleep for around a week," he said.

Laura Harmon, USI president
Laura Harmon, USI president

"My friends then sat me down and gave me my options and how I'm going to get them into place. I'm still wandering around wondering if I'm going to be able to afford pens and pencils and if I do, will that be my food for the week gone."

Daniel added that although his course is set to kick off very soon, he still has no housing sorted and when he spots a place that is within his price range, it's snapped up straight away.

"My friends said they saw a house with a queue of people outside waiting to view it.

"You'd literally want to be in the car the second you see a [free house], shouting down the phone saying 'I'm on the way with a big bag of cash. I'll take it.' There could be no furniture, but it would be a place to live."

35-year-old father of two Martin Lynch left his job in retail to return to education after the recession slowed down business and he eventually lost his job.

He relied heavily on Government funding as neither he nor his wife could find work. While studying business in LIT, he said he felt let down by the Government, as he never claimed funding from the State before and wasn't given much in his hour of need.

"We sold our car and bought a cheaper one. All of our luxuries were gone. We went from having a good quality of life to almost back to student living where we were having corn flakes for breakfast, dinner and tea for some weeks," he said.

"I was paying taxes since I was 17, but when I needed support and when I needed to upskill, it just wasn't there for me and I felt hard done by."

Grants and Government funding have come under immense pressure in recent years according to USI President Laura Harmon.

"Education is too expensive. Too many students and prospective students are worrying about whether they can afford to go to college," she said.

"Cutting the grant of shifting the thresholds downwards would certainly price even more students out of education - and that means pricing students out of a future."

Irish Independent

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