USI says Budget 2021 does not address underlying issues in higher education

Emma Nevin

The Union of Students in Ireland said that Budget 2021 has “ignored the systemic barriers preventing students from accessing higher education,” in a statement posted on their website.

The USI called for a €500 permanent reduction in the student contribution fee, and said they are “extremely disappointed” that this was not included in this year’s budget.

They said that while they welcome the €250 once off payment to students, this “does not recognise the longer-term financial pressures that students face. It is vital this payment is made quickly as students are struggling to make ends meet as we speak.”

“This would have been a commitment from this Government to recognise and address the underlying problem – that students face the highest fees in the EU, which are a financial barrier to accessing education. They failed to recognise or act on that,” the USI said.

“The Cassells Report released in 2016 called for immediate sustainable core funding however, this Government, like those before it has failed to commit to a model which views and funds education as a public good,” the USI concluded.

DCU Students´ Union echoed the USI´s disappointment, saying on Twitter that “a long-term investment in higher education is needed. That means more than a once off payment- the student contribution charge has to be lowered.”

However, they are “pleasantly surprised” by the reforms made to SUSI for post-graduate students.

“The postgrad grant increasing to €3,500 from €2,000 and an increase in the income threshold to €54,240 is one part of dismantling barriers to postgrad education,” the Students´ Union said.

The USI had a similar response to last year’s budget, which they described as “papering over the cracks of a broken system.”

“We asked for Budget 2020 to help break the barriers to accessing education but instead it has effectively put more up. The cost of living will rise in 2020 and with no support to meet higher costs, students will be worse off next year than they have ever been,” they said.

Commenting on last year’s budget, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick said “students have been forgotten in this budget and for this we are furious, but our voices will be heard. Budget 2020 will be remembered as the budget that lit a fire in students that won’t be put out until reasonable funding is put into third level education.”

Emma Nevin

Image credit: USI