Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has said students from low and middle income families have been unfairly targeted in cuts announced in budget 2013 and that access to higher education has become even more difficult.
The Cork North Central TD has said the increase in the €250 increase in the third level contribution fee to €2,500 will hit students particularly hard and with additional hikes of €250 to be made in 2014 and 2015 many simply would not be able to afford to attend college.
“Despite all of the hardship that students and their families have faced over recent months as a result of flawed SUSI system and the resulting debacle in processing grants Education Minister has pressed ahead with increasing the contribution fee.
“It is a decision that will result in additional hardship for students from lower income families and in addition to this has been the decision to reduce by 3% the eligibility threshold for student grants which is estimated to affect 8% of students who otherwise would qualify for a grant.
“This means thousands of additional less well-off students will be denied a the type of essential financial supports that are necessary for them to participate in higher education.
“These increases of fees and changes in the eligibility criteria will succeed in making access to college much too costly for many students and it makes a mockery of the concept of free, universal access to third level.
“Yet again it is poorer sections of Irish society who are bearing the brunt of the Government’s austerity agenda.”