No plans for rent reductions to HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) students or other low-income groups on the horizon – according to the UCD Access and Lifelong Learning Centre (ALL).

Michell Tracey, ALL’s Student Support Officer, told The College Tribune: “We have in excess of 800 students on campus who have entered through the HEAR pathway and other groups on low income. Many of these students face an array of challenges, including accommodation and we have expanded the package of financial supports available to these students.”

Although UCD will not be offering reduced rents on-campus accommodation to HEAR students, Tracey offered her assurances that “The University also prioritises this low-income access group and has ring-fencing on allocation of the most affordable rooms for the incoming students. Room rates are set by the University and all students including access students are required to pay the published rates.” HEAR students are usually offered rooms in Merville or Belgrove which both have rates of €7,392 for the 2020/2021 academic year.

Tracey indicated that funding in this area has been increased by the Higher Education Authority (HEA). The Student Assistance Fund (SAF), a payment offered by UCD to provide financial support to low-income undergraduate HEAR students and other groups, has had its funding “significantly increased by the HEA this year”.

However, according to the UCD ALL’s website the SAF (also known as the Student Support Fund) payment currently stands at €500 per HEAR student for the 2020/2021 academic year. This would represent no material increase from the previous year’s payment which was also €500. It further states that “students who are in receipt of a Cothrom na Féinne Scholarship, UCD Scholarship or an external scholarship e.g. Department of Education Scholarship are not eligible for the HEAR Student Support Fund”.

ALL has also used funding from the HEA to introduce the UCD Laptop Loan scheme for students who require a laptop for their studies and are unable to finance it. Tracey noted that “The HEA has provided a financial stimulus package, which has enabled us to develop a Laptop Loan scheme.” The €168 million stimulus package for third-level institutions and students was announced by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, in July of this year.

Isobel Dunne – Reporter