Cllr Emer Tóibín has hit out against the government for being removed from the difficulties that third-level students and their families face in affording college. Responding to claims by two government ministers that the Susi grant should be used to cover accommodation costs and students should attend ‘regional colleges’ even if they’ve achieved places in top-ranked universities, Cllr Tóibín stated:
“Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has let slip her scant appreciation of the increasingly prohibitive costs to accessing 3rd level education in our major cities and towns. Her advice that students use the Susi grant to pay for accommodation illustrates the extent to which she and Fine Gael are from the reality of the accommodation and housing crisis.
“The maximum possible Susi grant is €6,000. Not only is that figure significantly less than what many colleges charge for student accommodation, but it seems that Minister O’Connor has overlooked the fact that thousands of students depend on their grant to pay for essentials like food and transport.
“Minister Joe McHugh’s comments that students who cannot afford accommodation in places like Dublin, Cork, Galway or Limerick should instead turn-down initial CAO offers and attend ‘regional colleges’ is insulting to the hard work and achievements of Leaving Certificate students. Recent Leaving Certificate students should be looking forward to embarking on the next stage of their lives and be fully supported to make the most of the opportunities that they have worked so hard to achieve.
“It is staggering that the Minister for Education would suggest that a young person turn down a university place that they have set their dreams on simply because the government of which he is a member has failed to deal with an out of control housing crisis. Young people should not have to pay for the unending failures of establishment politicians.
“The Minister for Education should do his job and ensure that young citizens are able to avail of opportunities on the basis of equality. Wealth should not be a discriminatory factor in educational opportunities. The Minister’s comments have the effect of normalising inequality in educational opportunity on the basis of one’s wealth.
“Aontú believes that no young person should be forced to withdraw from a third-level course because their family cannot afford the unacceptable rents in our cities and towns. In a genuine republic, young people would be supported to develop their skills so they can contribute to society in the years ahead. They should not be left at the mercy of a dysfunctional market.
“It is time that as a society we begin to treat housing and education in a way that makes sense for the long-term.”