“2014 Budget could be a bridge too far”-President of DITSU

“2014 Budget could be a bridge too far”-President of DITSU - Hannah PophamPresident of the DIT Student’s Union Glenn Fitzpatrick today spoke out about the hardship which budgets have had-and will continue to have on students. The incremental hikes each year in the student contribution fee and the cuts, in both maintenance and postgraduate grants, have made acquiring third level education increasingly more costly. Fitzpatrick warned that the forthcoming budget could have considerable consequences on those already struggling within third level education: “I genuinely thought that we had reached breaking point a few years ago but students and their families plough on, determined to protect their right to an education and a viable future. Any further cuts could genuinely make Third Level education a bridge too far for many.”

GRANT CUTS The SU President detailed how even under the current budget, the average weekly grant payment is €84, which is “significantly lower than Jobseeker’s payments-what the Government deems the lowest amount of money that they expect people to be able to get by on.” He warned that the current grant is inadequate for student needs: “It’s not going nearly far enough for many students and in more extreme cases (which are on the rise), it’s crippling.” He also cautioned that the pressure students are under to financially support themselves while undertaking a degree can often have a negative effect on their academic performance: “We see students working longer hours in treacherous working conditions in order to pay for their education, yet the impact of those treacherous conditions actually negatively impacts on their studies, cancelling out the reason they sought employment in the first place.”

STUDENT CONTRIBUTION FEES Despite the fact that: “Students are feeling the pinch from every angle at the moment, be that fees, rent prices, grant cuts, lack of decent part time work and the fact that the supporting families are struggling…”, he said that hikes in the student contribution fee are unavoidable. “Unfortunately, the staggered increase in fees has been signed off with the Troika and has essentially been non-negotiable.”

STUDENT APATHY In light of the low turnout at the recent USI budget protest two weeks ago, Fitzpatrick has claimed that these hardships have had a negative impact on student motivation: “There is definitely a wave of apathy out there that is hard to tackle. Many students do not see the political system as a mechanism for change.”

UNEMPLOYMENT AND EMIGRATION Additionally, Fitzpatrick expressed concern that the 2014 Budget could potentially exacerbate Ireland’s problem of graduate emigration: “The choices for young people will be unpaid internships, precarious work or emigration. Young graduates with amazing potential are often over-qualified for what I would consider to be derisory options so our best and brightest may simply leave our shores.”

Hannah Popham