The urgent need for the Government to address funding issues for higher education establishments has been prominently highlighted by the Athlone Institute of Technology Students Union members.
In unison with their colleagues across the country, the Students Union members staged a mass walk out and protest, making a stance against the present funding predicament of those attending third level colleges.
Speaking to the Athlone Advertiser this week, AIT Students Union Vice President, Aine Daly, reflected on the decision to address the ongoing higher education funding issue which she believes, needs imminent resolution.
“We took this important stance, uniting with our fellow third level Students Union bodies across the country as it is an issue of immense concern which needs to be addressed promptly. The Government must provide better funding for our students,” Áine stressed.
Áine noted that since 2008 there has been a 38 percent decrease in the amount of funding allocated towards higher education establishments and this has proved detrimental to the student body attending the AIT.
“The drop in funding has been alarming and even though there was an increase in 2016 this was only a fraction of what is necessary for our students to enjoy a holistic third level experience. Approximately 60 percent of our students avail of the SUSI grant, but the amount allocated each month is still not sufficient, with regard to their rental payments and the ongoing costs which they endure,” the AIT Students Union Vice President highlighted.
Áine welcomed the news this week that the Government will not countenance the introduction of a third level student loan scheme, which, if introduced would have resulted in graduates repaying their college fees when their incomes reach a set threshold.
“Loan schemes would only deter people from accessing third level education with degrees now acting as a currency to get into the work force. Investment in higher education is a must to ensure a stable future in Ireland for all and the lobbying of elected representatives on a local and national level pertaining to this issue must continue,” Áine stated.
Ireland is currently the second highest third level college fee paying country in the form of a €3,000 registration charge for higher education in the EU. Should Brexit occur, Ireland will then become the most expensive country in this regard.
The issue has also garnered the attention of Athlone Sinn Féin local election aspirant, Padraig Hegarty, who met with Áine to express his support.
“Athlone Sinn Féin is vehemently against the notion of any further cuts to third level Ireland. This is the very generation who are picking up the pieces of the banking crisis debts, and who knows, with Brexit trundling down the line it will yet again be the lower hanging fruit that will bear the brunt of the economic impact,” Padraig remarked.