Tuesday 20 March 2018

Comment: 'It isn't a budget for young people but there are some positives'

President of the Union of Students Michael Kerrigan looks at what Budget 2018 means for young people and students

Michael Kerrigan (Union of Students Ireland)
Michael Kerrigan (Union of Students Ireland)

Michael Kerrigan

In a country where generations may never get a mortgage or buy a home, Budget 2018 did nothing to help students directly.

Instead employers will start contributing to the investment of higher education and a model of burdening students with €20,000 debt through the introduction of income-contingent loans appears to have fallen.

No income-contingent student loans were announced today, but neither was any meaningful new funding model on how third-level education should be funded.

Budget 2018 outlined the rate of the National Training Fund (NTF) levy to be increased by 0.1pc in 2018 to 0.8pc. This measure provides €47.5m of additional investment in the Higher and Further Education Sectors next year. The levy will rise to 0.9pc in 2019 and to 1.0pc in 2020 subject to the implementation of the necessary reforms to ensure that employers have a greater role in determining the priorities and the strategic direction of the fund. Minister Donohoe also outlined Higher Education Institutions are expected to receive €310m available to 2021 to address the infrastructure needs of the sector.

However, no investment in grant support for students was announced. With the cost of living soaring, SUSI grant thresholds needed to be adjusted to allow middle income earners to be able to access the SUSI grant scheme more allowing for students to be financially able to attend and apply themselves in third level.

The expansion of apprenticeships by over 6,000 and 10 new apprenticeship schemes are key for students looking to take alternative routes to education, and the announcement of support for 3,900 traineeship places is good news.

€35m in additional funding allocated to mental health services in 2018 will have a positive effect on preventing mental health crisis on campuses. Students should expect more accessible and effective services available on a consistent basis across the country.

It isn't a budget for students. It isn'’t really a budget for young people. But there are some positive steps overall in funding our third-level campuses, and a shift away from implementing any form of an income-contingent loan scheme.

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