The Minister for Education and Skills is allocating an extra €3 million to the Student Assistance Fund, which is available to third level students who are experiencing severe financial hardship or who may have to drop out of college for financial reasons.
This will bring to €11 million the amount of money available to the Fund in 2012/13. With the extra money, the Fund is expected to assist in the region of 16,000 students this academic year.
Higher Education institutions are reporting a significant increase in demand for this Fund. Last academic year, approximately 13,000 students were given financial assistance. This year, universities, Institutes of Technology and other third level institutes are reporting an average increase in applications to the Fund of 67% to date.
“I am acutely aware of the severe financial difficulties facing many families and students this academic year,” said Minister Ruairí Quinn, “In light of this and the delays to the processing of some student grants, the Department of Education & Skills requested the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to examine if there was an increased demand from students to access the Student Assistance Fund.”
“Given the substantial increase reported by third level institutions, we have found the resources within our own budget to increase the Fund by €3 million which will help thousands more students stay in college or avoid hardship.”
The HEA asked 32 institutions to complete a short survey on the current position on the administration of the Student Assistance Fund. Overall, demand for the Fund has increased substantially on last year. It is also reported that a significant proportion of the total Fund has already been committed at this stage in the academic year.
“I recognise that the problems with SUSI, the new grant awarding body, is one of the factors driving students to seek help, but there are others such as the withdrawal of other sources of funding like those from societies or partnerships and the increased numbers of students in poverty, and I hope the increased money now available to the Fund will go some way to alleviating student hardship,” concluded Minister Quinn.