Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn recently announced the allocation of an extra €3 million to the Student Assistant Fund, which is available to students suffering from financial difficulty.
The injection will bring the amount available to €11 million in 2012/13. With the additional money the fund is expected to help around 16,000 students this academic year.
According to the Department of Education, third level institutions are reporting an increased demand for the fund. This year universities, Institutes of Technology and other third level institutions are reporting an average increase of applications to the fund of 67%.
The January announcement comes after months of scrutiny of the Education Minister due to the backlog of SUSI student education grants.
“I am acutely aware of the severe financial difficulties facing many families and students this academic year” said Minister Quinn. “In light of this and the delays to the processing of some student grants, the Department of Education and Skills requested the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to examine if there was an increased demand from students to access the Student Assistance.”
The HEA asked 32 institutions to complete a short survey on the current position of the Student Assistance Fund, which showed that overall, demand for the service increased significantly since last year.