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58.1% of students miss meals to stay in college, according to new research released today by the Union of Students in Ireland who had more than 870 responses to a national survey of students. More than a third (38.7%) of students said they go hungry to fund or stay in college while 34.2% said they go without heat. A further 25.4% said they go to their Students’ Union, Saint Vincent de Paul or a food bank for food.


The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has criticised recent suggestions to increase the registration fee by more than €1,000 and said the implications of this proposed increase include plunging students further into poverty, disabling social mobility, and increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. A paper prepared by officials at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for recently-appointed Minister Pascal Donohue said the increase of €1,000 in registration fees would be insufficient to solve the funding gap in third level education, and an even greater increase is needed.


“Increasing the registration fee beyond €4,000 is a ludicrous proposal.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “It’s no surprise that the paper given to the minister suggests that the increase isn’t a solution to the funding crisis. Our research shows that more than half of students miss meals – they’re literally going hungry – so an increase of €1,000 annually will only worsen the situation. Any government that proposes raising costs in an area already crippled by cuts and high expenses is deluded and out of touch with the public. This suggested increase will deter young people from applying to college, which is already unaffordable for so many.”


According to the USI research, 77.1% of students borrow, or have borrowed, money off friends or family to stay in college; 34.2% said they go, or have gone, without heat; 4.2% said they go, or have gone, without water; while 8.5% said they go, or have gone, without electricity. When asked ‘what is the main way you pay for college?’, 41.8% of students said ‘grants’, 27.2% said ‘my parents’, 16% said ‘my job’, and 6.5% said ‘loans’.


According to the Irish Times, the paper prepared for Minister Pascal Donohue suggests that such a scheme, involving an increase in the present student contribution from €3,000 to €4,000 would ultimately fail as a solution to the funding crisis in higher education. In addition, it argues that the scheme would be “socially regressive” by requiring all students, irrespective of their socio-economic background, to pay the registration fee.


Full answer responses:


Which of the following things, if any, have you had to do to stay in college?

878 responses

  • Borrowing money off friends/ family – 77.1%
  • Missing meals – 58.1%
  • Going hungry – 38.7%
  • Going without heat – 34.2%
  • Going to the Students’ Union/ Saint Vincent de Paul/ food bank for food – 25.4%
  • Other – 9.2%
  • Going without electricity – 8.5%
  • Going without water – 4.2%



What is the main way you pay for college?

  • Grants – 41.8%
  • My parents – 27.2%
  • My job – 16.0%
  • Loans – 6.5%
  • Life Savings – 4.4%
  • Other – 4.1%


Note: population of USI members: 354,000

Survey confidence level: 95%

Survey margin for error: 3.4%





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