The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) have today criticised a proposed €500 million “rainy day fund” which will come “instead of investment in third level education”. USI are set to demonstrate at 8am tomorrow at Leinster House “to publicly denounce” the fund.
In a press release, USI noted that Irish students currently pay the second highest fees in Europe, and that funding for higher education has reduced by 40% during continued austerity. USI also criticised the SUSI grant, which has seen “no increase since drastic cuts in 2012”.
According to the union, “the ‘rainy day’ is now”. They went on to “unequivocally” condemn the idea that “much needed state funds be put aside when students in Ireland are struggling to access a degree at third level due to financial strain”. They attributed this difficulty to the lack of funding within higher education.
President of USI, Síona Cahill, also addressed the issue and said that “as public finances have improved Government have continually ignored the plight of young people, students, and educators”. She acknowledged that as a result of this students have “felt the brunt of cuts to grants, lack of beds to lay their heads, and the second highest fees in Europe”.
She acknowledged the ultimatum faced by the government this week and said: ““Government have a choice to make in this budget: they can either squirrel away public money for the benefit of those in power, or they can invest in the future of their people.”
Cahill criticised this move as ineffective in solving the higher education funding issue, and said that it is “not at all acceptable as a way forward for a higher education system which we need to support student success, promote access, and produce top quality graduates.”
“The system is underfunded and students face the burden – at €3,000 per annum, students are already paying the second highest fees in Europe. It’s clear the government must act, and invest meaningfully in the present and the future of this country before it’s too late.”
In conclusion she said that: “It is abundantly clear that the time for a ‘rainy day fund’ has passed.” She called for “legitimate investment” to be made in tomorrow’s budget, and hoped that “the idea of a ‘rainy day fund’ is entertained no longer”.
USI have called on the government to invest in the higher education system through “legitimate funding” for over 5 years. According to them, no significant funding has so far been made.
Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe is set to unveil Budget 2019 tomorrow which will include the first €500 million for the fund. Donohoe has previously defended the establishment of a “rainy day fund” and cites past economic shocks, such as the housing crisis, as reason for doing so. The fund is begin with €1.5 billion from Ireland’s sovereign wealth fund and with an additional €500 million a year added for the next three years.