By Aisling Brady
August sees much preparation for students returning to third level education. This year, students will pay anything up to €2,288 in fees. But fees aren’t the only worry for students; many will need to move into new accommodation the recession has brought about a reduction in income for many families.
The government and Bank of Ireland have responded to the need of financial aid for third and fourth level education students by introducing a new post-graduate loan system for current and post- graduate students. This scheme was developed in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). This scheme allows current and postgraduate students to take out a loan to cover their fees, and a maintenance loan. Students will only make repayments on interest while they are studying and for the following three months after their studies are completed. Then they will pay interest at 10.8% APR variable, with a five year period to complete the rest of the loan payment.
However, this scheme has been criticised by the Union of Students Ireland as they feel it provides a two-tiered education system, as it is based on the requirement of a good credit history by the student. John Logan President of the USI feels ‘This will prevent most disadvantaged students from accessing the loan scheme.’
Studenty.me spoke to some students and about their financial situation while at third level education. Aoife Bennett is a second year Journalist student in DCU and had to leave her hometown in Waterford to move up to Dublin to live near college.
‘I don’t get a grant so my parents pay the full €2,288; they also pay for my food, expenses and accommodation’ she said, and added, ‘I think the grant should be open to more categories of people, as it is a lot of money. I sent out 20 CVs to try and get part-time work in Waterford but I couldn’t get anything because of the recession. Often I wouldn’t even have €20 left at the end of the week to get a bus home to Waterford, which is awful. ‘
The Higher Education Authority Grant has helped a lot of students gain access to third level education and many feel without it, they would not have gone to University.
An undergraduate student from All Hallows College in Dublin, who wishes to remain anonymous, said ‘Without a grant, I couldn’t go to University. It would be too much pressure on my Mam. I work approximately 20-25 hours a week. I give a contribution of my wages to my Mam and the rest of it goes towards expenses like socialising, food and travel. I worry about money, particularly if my hours get cut in my part-time job. I also worry as my studies are affected by the long hours I work. I think it is a joke that the fees have gone up yet again and I feel the government are ripping us off.’
A Masters of History student at Trinity College Dublin, Amy Bracken said she is “Very lucky” to have the financial support of her parents as she is the only family member in full-time education.
“I moved down to Dublin to do my BA and I am still living here at the moment” Bracken explains. ” It is financially difficult getting through full-time education. I worked three part time jobs during the summer in order to save for University. I now live off a meagre part-time income and without the support of my parents, it would be very hard to do my Masters. I also feel the fee of €7,500 is far too high, as I don’t feel my Masters is worth that” she adds.
With everybody under financial strain, will our generation who pay the most for this recession? Let us know what you think.