Minister Simon Harris announced a further €1.3 million will be allocated to the Student Assistance Fund, bringing total government financing to €18.5 million for 2022.  Prior to this announcement UCD’s share of the fund was €1,413,923 or roughly €46 per student, the extra €1.3 million will be shared among 28 Higher Education Institutes. 

The Student Assistance fund is designed to support students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds with ongoing needs for financial support and provide emergency financial assistance for other students.  Money is provided to the fund from the government as well as the European Social Fund, students are awarded on a case-by-case basis by their educational institution.

Minister Simon Harris of the office of Further and Higher Education. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

In a press release regarding the increased funding the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon 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.”, this despite the fact that Social Justice Ireland estimates 10% of students live in poverty and if the SAF funding for UCD was only distributed to those in poverty, each student would receive €460 per year or 24% of the standardized average rent for a single month in the Dublin area.

An independent review of the Student Assistance Fund carried out by Crowe Horwath on behalf of the Higher Education Authority found that on average, 59% of funds were consistently distributed for assistance with rent and a further 17% for heating, light and food.  As inflation is set to rise over the coming year these costs are set to increase, further putting students under economic pressure. 

“The CSO estimates that 1 in 5 students are already at risk of poverty”

The CSO estimates that 1 in 5 students are already at risk of poverty while also recording a 18.5% increase in the cost of transport and that the cost of Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas & Other Fuels rose 14.1% according to the EU Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices for 2021.  A further 24% of students were designated by the SCO as being in Enforced Deprivation or in continual poverty, meaning they had met one or more of the criteria such as keeping their homes adequately warm, being without heating for a period or being unable to purchase new clothes. 

Any UCD student can apply for help from the Student Assistance fund by filling in an application form found on SISweb under the Welfare and Assistance section. 

Malachy Rynne – Reporter