The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) welcomes meaningful investment of €310 million available to 2021 to address the infrastructure needs of higher education sector, and an increase in National Training Fund levy to add €47.5m of additional investment next year. However, the union is raising concerns over any meaningful investment in improving access to education through increasing SUSI grant thresholds, or improving on-campus mental health services, declaring Budget 2018 as ‘leaving students behind’.
Speaking outside the Dáil, USI President Michael Kerrigan said,
‘No income-contingent student loans were announced today, but neither was any meaningful new funding model on how third-level education should be funded. A €250 decrease in fee level would come at a relatively small cost to the state, and alleviated pressure on the payment of fees that have doubled over a period of six years.’
Mr Kerrigan went on to say,
‘It hasn’t been a budget for students. It hasn’t really been a budget for young people. But there are some positive steps overall in funding our third-level campuses, and a shift away from implementing any form of an income-contingent loan scheme.
‘While the additional funding is welcomed to prop up crumbling infrastructures, and not burdening students with a new funding model based on loans and debt, there is no financial support in terms grants for students announced today. With the cost of living soaring, SUSI grant thresholds needed to be adjusted to allow middle income earners to be able to access the SUSI grant scheme more allowing for students to be financially able to attend and apply themselves in third level.’
Budget 2018 outlined the rate of the National Training Fund (NTF) levy to be increased by 0.1 per cent in 2018 to 0.8 per cent. This measure provides €47.5m of additional investment in the Higher and Further Education Sectors next year. The levy will rise to 0.9 per cent in 2019 and to 1.0 per cent in 2020 subject to the implementation of the necessary reforms to ensure that employers have a greater role in determining the priorities and the strategic direction of the Fund.
Minister Donoghue also outlined Higher Education Institutions are expected to receive €310 million available to 2021 to address the infrastructure needs of the sector.