Ógra Aontú have welcomed the announcement by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris of a fifty million one-off hardship fund for third level students, but they say clarity is needed around the funding and that it is disappointing to see student nurses left behind.

Spokesperson for the group, Gavin Boyne, a student of Trinity College Dublin, said:

“Credit where credit is due – we very much welcome the announcement from the Department of Education that a 50 million euro fund will be set up to assist students this year. The increase in the income threshold for the SUSI grant is also to be welcomed, as is the review of the SUSI process. This is something Ógra Aontú have written to the Department about throughout the year”.

Gavin continued; “However, it is important to note that many of these changes will not come into effect until next year, and that many students will be left hanging in limbo in the interim. It seems very apparent to us that SUSI were behaving more conservatively and harshly this year than in previous years – they were tighter and harsher in their scrutiny of students’ grant applications, which was incredibly unfair given the gravity of the current pandemic and the huge stress being placed on the shoulders of students”.

“This is some confusion today over the hardship fund and the process of claiming refunds on the fees already paid, but we will be engaging with the Department to seek clarity on that. A disappointing day indeed for student nurses who have been working on the frontlines without pay since the start of this pandemic despite Minister Harris announcing that he would way them when he was Minister for Health. He’s now Minister for Higher Education but they still haven’t been paid. Students need help now – or else they will start dropping out of eduction because they cannot afford rent or college fees. These supports need to come into effect immediately, students cannot afford to wait until next year. We will be raising our concerns with the Department”, concluded Gavin.