Holly Cairns TD, the Social Democrats spokesperson on Higher Education, says the Government’s announcement of a €160m funding package for the third level sector falls far short of what is required.

Deputy Cairns said:

“While any increase in financial supports for students would be welcome under normal circumstances, we are not living in ordinary times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. College life will look very different for returning students and first year entrants this autumn, with many modules likely to be taught online.

“Minister Harris has secured approval for €15m to help cover the cost of laptops for students and around €3m will be made available for mental health supports. But the doubling of the Student Assistant Fund to €16m will do little for students who have been unable to take part-time jobs or work abroad on J1 visas due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Traditionally, these have been key sources of revenue for our third level students and the Government will need to look at practical ways of filling this financial gap.”

Deputy Cairns added: “The true extent of what financial supports for students and student welfare, including additional grant supports for students, must be agreed with key stakeholders urgently. Students need certainty that they will be able to afford to go back to or start off in their college in September and will be making those kinds of decisions now.

“We can’t have a ‘wait and see’ attitude on this – if the Government is serious about enabling students to return to college, then the measures to support students must be made clear in the coming weeks.”

July 22, 2020

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