By Ailiadh Walsh
As third level students are staging demonstrations and protests across the country regarding the crisis in student accommodation and the financial burden that going to college incurs, what could the students of Ireland hope for in next Tuesday‘s Budget?
There have been many predictions and rumours circulating of what might happen in the upcoming Budget, as government officials and ministers have been dropping hints of late. One of which is that the minimum wage – which at present is €11.30 an hour – looks set to be increased to €12.70 an hour. If this happens it will be helpful for students who are working in part-time jobs.
Regarding the Student Contribution fees, there were talks that this fee may be scrapped but at the very least it is hoped that there will be another cut and hopefully more than what was given in last year’s Budget. It has been said that students are in line for another €1,000 contribution fee cut and that it may even stretch to €2,000. Many students and families up and down the country are waiting and hoping for some relief regarding these fees.
Sources close to both Ministers Simon Harris and Niall Collins say they were pushing for greater cuts in student fees to help “middle Ireland” households with the cost of living. Minister Harris also wants grants to be extended to part-time students who are currently not eligible for any support.
On the topical issue of the crisis of escalating student accommodation costs and the soaring cost of living for students, what could we hope to see, but more importantly what will we actually get?
Students’ concerns for the Budget
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI)’s most recent demonstration called on the government to use its “rainy day” fund to tackle the student accommodation crisis and the cost of going to college as well as the call for 30,000 new student beds, and free public transport for students.
USI has said that “while the government intends to hoard €65 billion in the ‘rainy day’ fund, it is raining now for third-level students who are suffering financial hardship or dropping out of college due to the lack of affordable student accommodation and other costs”.
As these demonstrations were taking place, there were clashes between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald about these exact issues during Leaders’ Questions. Ms McDonald told Mr Varadkar that students were “drowning in costs”. “This is having a terrible impact on their education, their mental health and general wellbeing”. Mr Varadkar rejected Ms McDonald’s claim that the Government was not addressing the issue.
The Taoiseach promised more action would be outlined in next week’s Budget. So, let’s hope they live up to their promises.