More than €17 million has been announced in support for struggling third-level students as part of the Student Assistance Fund.
An additional €5 million was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris in support for mental health and wellbeing services.
This fund was announced against the backdrop of the 2022 Budget.
The fund will seek to assist full or part time students facing financial difficulties. The fund will provide assistance to students in paying for books and class materials, rent and utility bills, food, essential travel, childcare costs and medical costs.
Students will be able to apply for the fund through their respective welfare office.
Minister Harris announced the fund as part of the €105 million package provided by Government for the higher education sector.
Commenting on the package in a press statement, Harris said: “When we set about getting staff and students back to college campuses, we also made a commitment we would put supports in place to make this happen.”
“Today, I am delighted to follow through on that commitment with the announcement of two very important funds.”
Continuing, he said: “Students have endured an incredibly difficult 18 months due to Covid-19. They are now back on campus but they still need significant support – financial and other. The Student Assistance Fund is a fund that is in place for students who might be financially struggling, and today we are confirming €17 million for students.”
“The long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health has the potential to be significant.”
“We invested €5 million in services and increasing staff numbers last year and this additional €5 million will enable the continued provision and enhancement of student counselling services and the roll-out of innovative mental health and wellbeing supports for students and training for staff.”
This €5 million in mental health services will be used to assist students in several ways. Services will include; the recruitment of additional student counsellors.
The recruitment of assistant psychologists.
The recruitment of Head of Service posts for those Higher Education Institutes (HEI) employing more than 2 FTEs.
To train HEI staff in order to fully support and refer students to appropriate services.
To raise awareness of student mental health difficulties and wellbeing services, through student outreach activities.
To support implementation of the National Student Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Framework.
To support implementation of the Framework for Consent in HEIs; Safe, Respectful, Supportive and Positive: Ending Sexual Harassment in Irish Higher Education Institutions.
University College Cork (UCC), which opened a food bank for struggling students last week, has been allocated €1,269,997 of the fund.
Technological University Dublin (TU) will receive €2,085,346, the highest figure from the fund to be allocated to one HEI. University College Dublin (UCD) will receive the second highest figure of €1,413,923. NUI Galway will receive the next highest figure of €1,247,332 and Trinity will receive €966,375.
Trinity will likewise receive an additional €307,000 in funding for mental health services.
In a press statement Chief Executive Officer of the Higher Education Association, Dr. Alan Wall said: “Throughout the pandemic our higher education institutions (HEIs) have demonstrated an ability to find new ways to engage with students.”
“Student support services, including advice and counselling, have played a central role over the past year.”
Continuing he said: “We have seen the enhancement and extension of mental health services to students who have faced all kinds of challenges.”
“This additional funding will allow HEIs to continue to support students and their frontline staff as we reopen higher education again.”