An extra €3 million has been ringfenced for students experiencing severe financial hardship, amid reports that students are going hungry due to delays in the payment of student grants.
As reported in this week’s Galway Independent, students unions including GMIT SU have been forced to begin providing food boxes to poverty stricken students who are still waiting on their first instalment of the student grant. The crisis has emerged as a result of major delays in the processing and payment of maintenance grants from new centralised body SUSI.
Responding to the news, Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn yesterday confirmed that his department would be allocating an extra €3 million to the Student Assistance Fund, which is available to third level students who are experiencing financial difficulties or who may have to drop out of college for financial reasons.
The extra money is expected to assist in the region of 16,000 students this academic year and higher education institutions across the country are reporting a significant increase in demand for the fund.
In the last academic year, approximately 13,000 students were given financial assistance. This year, universities, Institutes of Technology and other third level institutes are reporting an average increase in applications of 67 per cent to date.
“I am acutely aware of the severe financial difficulties facing many families and students this academic year. Given the substantial increase reported by third level institutions, we have found the resources within our own budget to increase the Fund by €3 million which will help thousands more students stay in college or avoid hardship,” said Minister Quinn.
“I recognise that the problems with SUSI, the new grant awarding body, is one of the factors driving students to seek help, but there are others such as the withdrawal of other sources of funding like those from societies or partnerships and the increased numbers of students in poverty, and I hope the increased money now available to the Fund will go some way to alleviating student hardship.”