Students 'can't buy food or pay rent'
Up to 1,500 students from University College Cork (UCC) and Cork Institute of Technology marched on the offices of Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer yesterday amid claims that they are unable to pay for fees, rent and food.
Mr Buttimer met the students and their representatives outside his constituency office in Glasheen.
The students asked the Cork South Central TD to sign a pledge to vote against the forthcoming budget if it includes cuts to the maintenance grant or increases the student contribution charge.
Mr Buttimer declined to sign the pledge but promised to bring the students’ concerns to his colleagues.
“As somebody who has attended third-level education and recognises the importance of it, I have listened to what you said today and will go back to Government with what you have said. The important thing is that we live in a democracy. We are in a difficult budgetary situation. What you said today is important but there is no easy solution.”
UCC students’ union welfare officer Dave Carey has received 300 applications over a two-week period from students hoping to receive money from a European fund for students in dire straits. He is particularly concerned about mature and postgraduate students.
“This year they [the Government] have once again cut the postgraduate grant.
“We have dropped 17 per cent in postgraduate registration this year alone just because there are no grants there . . . I have people in to me on a weekly basis who can’t afford to eat, pay their rent or their heating.”
Yesterday’s protest was the first in a series of national rallies due to take place at colleges throughout the State.
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has indicated that college fees are to increase by €250 this year and every year until 2015, when they will reach €3,000.