The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called on the government to ensure that the current level of student financial aid is maintained in the upcoming budget.
The USI fears that both the Back to Education allowance and the student maintenance grant could face cuts. The union is concerned that there is a growing gap between the cost of third level education and the ability of families to afford it.
“Education is too expensive. Too many students and prospective students are worrying about whether they can afford to go to college,” said USI president Laura Harmon ahead of the organisation’s pre-budget submission meeting earlier this month.
Quoting a Bank of Ireland study Ms. Harmon said that the annual cost of sending a student to university is over €13,000. This is in comparison to the average student grant which stands at €3025.
“Cutting the grant or shifting the thresholds downwards would certainly price even more students out of education and that means pricing students out of a future,” she said.
Many students are worried that any cuts to student support would stretch tight budgets even further.
“It’s very hard to be able to afford to pay rent and attend college full time,” said DCU student Aoife Geary. “Cuts to the grant will mean that I will have to work more and pay less attention to my studies.”
The shortage of student housing as well as rapidly rising cost of rent is also a matter of concern to the USI. Ms. Harmon mentioned the 17.2% increase in Dublin and the 10% increase across the country as causing excessive hardship to students.
The USI plans on staging a national rally in support of its demands in Dublin on October 8th.