The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) is to receive an additional €1.3 million in funding in the 2021/2022 academic year, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced.
This brings the total available funding for the SAF to €18.5 million.
In a statement on Thursday, Harris said that the once off additional funding is intended to support students facing financial difficulty as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The SAF is designed to assist students struggling to meet the costs of college life, including textbooks, rent, utilities and childcare expenses. Students can apply for support from the SAF through the access office at their higher education institution.
In his statement, Harris said: “I have listened to the voice of students, who have clearly articulated that Covid-19 and the increased cost of living is having a major impact on the financial situation of students and their families.”
“If you are a higher education student and you are having difficulties in paying bills, buying food or books or other classroom materials or even having difficulties in covering the cost of childcare as you return to campus, I suggest that you talk to the access office in your higher education institution.”
Last August, the Student Cost of Living Guide, published by Technological University (TU) Dublin calculated that the cost of college for students living in Dublin had risen to almost €14,000 for the current academic year, a significant increase from an estimated €12,171 the previous year.
The €17 million originally allocated to the SAF was a part of the €105 million package for the higher education sector provided by the government in Budget 2022. €5 million was also allocated for the provision of mental health services for third-level students.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) criticised Budget 2022 as indicative of the fact that “this government has no interest in addressing the hardship that many students face.”
The USI criticised the lack of reduction in the Student Contribution Charge, as well as the failure to address problems with student accommodation.
“In our Pre-Budget Submission, USI outlined that we wanted to see a three-year plan for the abolishing of fees, with a €1,000 reduction made this year and the same again in the next two budgets,” said USI President Clare Austick in October.
“USI has also been demanding action on student accommodation, but with no action taken in this area by government in recent years, the crisis is now the worst we have seen.”