BREAK THE BARRIERS TO EDUCATION
Third-level education in the Twenty-Six Counties is rapidly becoming inaccessible for large amounts of our young people. Student accommodation costs across the state have risen sharply, with most college students seeing significant rent increases in recent years.
Vast amounts of student accommodation have been built across the state by large multinational corporations, keen to take advantage of desperate students. The rent of more than 90% of student accommodation units built since 2016 is over €800 per-month.
Rapidly escalating student rents compound the problem of chronic under-funding of third level education by the state. In the last decade there has been a 45 per cent reduction in state funding per student for higher education, with students expected to shoulder the resulting gap.
This underfunding has forced third-level institutions to increase the student contribution fee, more than tripling it over the last 10 years. In 2008, at the start of the economic crash, the student contribution fee was €825 per annum on average. In the last decade this has risen to €3,000 per annum, making it the second highest in the European Union.
The rising costs associated with being a student have a strong class bias, with students from low and middle-income families being impacted far harder than those from wealthier backgrounds.
Twenty-Six County Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and her Fine Gael colleagues preside over an education system that allows members of their own affluent voter base to get ahead in academia.
The entire education system is geared to benefit those who are already rich. Wealthier families can access private secondary schools, private grinds and private tutors to gain advantage over those that cannot. The impact of this advantage is undeniable.
In some working-class areas, progression rates to third level are as low as 16%, with more affluent areas such as Ballsbridge in Dublin 4 achieving nearly 100%.
Those who complete third level education will, on average, go on to earn higher incomes than those do not. And so, income and class division is carried into the next generation.
As things stand many third-level students are forced to work long hours, sometimes with more than one job, to pay for rent and other necessities. Such work has an obvious detrimental impact on their studies. And in a significant number of cases students drop out completely – locked out of a ‘free’ education system because they aren’t wealthy enough to be a student.
Students are frustrated, they want real change, rather than soundbites from Fine Gael ministers. They want an education system that is fit for purpose. They want a system that can cater to the needs of the tens of thousands of third-level students.
Students in are demanding drastic reform to the current inadequate education system. They want access to affordable, decent student accommodation, the increase and reform of the SUSI Grant system and affordable public transport.
Éirígí For A New Republic supports the students in their demands and further calls for the creation of a publicly-funded, single-tier, secular education system that will be genuinely open to all, regardless of the income of their parents.