Student fund given extra allocation
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has reminded Government TDs that the Government increased the Student Assistance Fund by €3 million in December.
Mr Quinn sent letters to his colleagues amid recent controversy over delays by Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) to pay student maintenance grants.
The Student Assistance Fund provides financial assistance for students experiencing financial difficulties whilst attending college. The Government initially allocated €8 million for the fund this year but increased it to €11 million in December following demand from institutions.
According to the Department of Education, the Higher Education Authority "asked 32 institutions to complete a short survey on the current position on the administration of the Student Assistance Fund. Overall, demand for the Fund has increased substantially on last year. It is also reported that a significant proportion of the total Fund has already been committed at this stage in the academic year."
Last academic year, approximately 13,000 students were given financial assistance. This year third level institutes are reporting an average increase in applications to the Fund of 67% to date.
"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," Mr Quinn said.
"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."
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which this week estimated some 5,500 students are still awaiting their grants, said the increase was insufficient and called on the Government to provide an extra €1 million.
“While this allocation is welcome, it must be noted that the Student Assistance Fund requires €12 million to meet the increased demand being placed on it by more applications,” the organisation said in a statement.