Ireland’s youth are let down by barriers to higher education

Emma Nevin

Ireland’s higher education system has been engulfed with crises for over a decade now. Students are up against countless challenges to get into and stay in college and the situation is constantly deteriorating further.

Students and their struggles are not highlighted enough in the media. It is barbaric that the fourth wealthiest country in the EU somehow can’t scrounge enough money together to pay student contribution fees.

Over the last decade Ireland has sped down the road of commodifying education. Fees have shot up and SUSI has stagnated, forcing students to work crazy hours on top of fulfilling the extensive demands of a full-time degree.

This is affecting lower income households the most. Even if you do qualify for SUSI and receive both a maintenance grant, and have your fees paid for, if you don’t live a commutable distance from your college what are your options?

Student accommodation can cost upwards of 800 euros a month. Not even the biggest SUSI maintenance grant comes close to paying for that, as well as all the other expenses college comes with.

And what if your parents’ income is above the threshold SUSI pays out to but they can’t afford to pay three thousand a year for you? Some households have multiple college students and it doesn’t take an accountant to figure out the expenses add up quick.

This results in an incredible financial burden falling on many Irish college students. Three thousand euros a year plus potential accommodation costs and bills results in a college student needing a substantial income while also trying to complete their college work.

College students having to work full-time hours on top of their academic’s just to get by in Europe’s fourth wealthiest country is unjust.

Thankfully, Simon Harris has promised a full review of SUSI to be conducted during 2021. This paired with the 250 euro payment to students are of course welcome but it must be seen as the very beginning steps of a complete reform of the higher education system.

A permanent reduction of the student contribution fee and increased eligibility for the SUSI grant are two of the reforms the USI is calling for and is the bare minimum this government must do to help alleviate the burden that falls on college students in this country.

Unfortunately this government has not expressed any desire to implement permanent deductions to Ireland’s college fees in their program for government or in their budget for next year.

Ireland’s youth deserves better than this and a massive intervention is needed now.

Emma Nevin