Local Sinn Féin Deputy and Spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke, has accused the government of failing third level students as college costs continue to spiral out of control and many are struggling to find accommodation.
She has called on the government to act urgently and end this cycle, which unfairly and increasingly excludes students who are from families on low incomes.
“The cost of going to university is far too high and students from families on ordinary incomes are being priced out. This is appalling. Education should not be a luxury for the privileged few whose families can afford it.
“New research published today shows that the average cost of going to college is now as high as €14,000 per year for students who are living away from home in some areas.
"One of the main reasons is the ongoing housing crisis which the government is failing to act on. For families on ordinary incomes the cost of college is becoming increasingly unaffordable.
“I am being contacted by students here in Westmeath who are anxious and stressed about securing accommodation in time for the new academic year. Students and their families feel abandoned by this government and left to navigate the housing crisis alone.
“On Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s watch, university costs have spiralled out of control. Enough is enough. I am urging the government to act now and reduce these costs urgently so that students here in Westmeath and across Ireland get a fair chance.
"We are in danger of driving towards a situation where students who aren’t from wealthy backgrounds are excluded from certain third level institutions. This is compounded by the fact that SUSI rates have not increased since 2012 and university fees here are the highest in the EU.
“The government can no longer turn a blind eye to this issue and must act. As a matter of urgency, the government must make capital grants available for Higher Education Institutions to build public owned student accommodation on campuses and on public land. Local authorities should also be provided with funding to build student specific accommodation.
“Technological Universities must be enabled to borrow money to build accommodation to meet the growing demands of their student population.
“Students need fit for purpose student accommodation at an affordable cost. Affordable accommodation is a key component of third level education for most students. Investment in higher and further education must include investment in accommodation that meets the needs of low and middle-income families.
“Facilitating developers to build high end expensive accommodation to attract wealthy international students will do nothing to ensure equality of access to third level education for struggling families. The real problem of affordability and supply must be tackled without any more excuses.
“Every August, these issues return as the government fails each and every year to tackle the housing crisis. Students from families with low incomes are paying the price for this government’s inaction on the dysfunctional housing market.
“I am urging the government to act and address the housing crisis so that students can access decent housing which allows them to pursue their education. It should shame us all to think that in 2021, students are being shut out of higher education due to their families’ inability to pay extortionate sums of rent.
“There can be no more rhetoric or vague promises from the Minister, action is needed now to deliver the real change that students and their families urgently need," Teachta Clarke said.