Wednesday 19 September 2018

'Our future is at stake' - Students hold protest over introduction of student loan scheme

Student March on Student Loans, Merrion Square.
Student March on Student Loans, Merrion Square.
Student March on Student Loans, Merrion Square. Andrew Shannon Sligo I.T.
Student March on Student Loans, Merrion Square. Danielle Kinghorne (17) Westmeath, Rebecca McKenna (18) Westmeath, Killian molloy (17) Meath.
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Thousands of third level students from all over Ireland have protested the introduction of a student loan scheme, chanting: “Our future is at stake, we say no to student debt” and “Leo, Leo, debt is not the way to go.”

The protest assembled on Custom House Quay in the capita at lunchtime, culminating in a rally outside Government Buildings on Merrion square.

USI president Michael Kerrigan said the €3,000 annual student registration fee has resulted in Ireland having one of the most expensive third level systems in the world.

“The registration charge has increased by 275 per cent since 2008. What have we got to show for it? Falling university rankings, facilities which are not fit for purpose. Something has to change,” he said.

Amongst the speakers was Jane Hayes Nally, a fifth year student of Midleton College, Cork who told protesters that a student loan scheme would only lead to colossal and crippling debt for students and result in  a barrier to education.

As one of three children, she said her family could potentially be saddled with a debt of €100,000 if such a scheme is introduced.

“I want to go to college one day, I want to own a house, I’d like to set up my own business,” she told the approving crowd.

Third year Social Care  student Andrew Shannon (20) from Sligo IT said it is already getting harder for students to access the grant system. He is working in a filing station to help fund himself through college and said if it wasn’t for this, he would not be able to go to college.

“Food, rent, books – they’re all expensive,” he said.

His rent has gone up this year by €600 or €700 alone, he revealed.

“We’re getting it on all sides.”

“Our message to the government is to cop on,” said his friend Caoimhe Boland also studying Social Care in Sligo IT.

“Stop blocking the most vulnerable people in society from accessing education.”

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