Billy Ryle: Minister Needs To Intervene To Help Kerry Students

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Guidance Counsellor Billy Ryle says Minister Simon Harris must intervene immediately or many of Kerry’s talented young people will be denied their right to a third level education…

Very few college students set foot on campus during the last academic year.

Instead, they spent the year at home as lectures were delivered on-line. The sheer joy of returning to in-person lectures has been tempered by a difficult search for accommodation, which is in very short supply and very expensive.

The cost-of-living guide published recently by Technological University Dublin (TUD), reaffirms that 3rd level costs are prohibitive for many students.

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The guide confirms that the cost of maintaining a student in college this year will be a staggering €14,000. In addition, means testing of grant applications is so restrictive that thousands of students are ineligible for any financial aid.

Capping the gross annual income levels for grant eligibility at €39,875 ignores spiralling living costs – increasing again this year by 13.5% – and is financially crippling many families.

A significant number of higher education students get no funding from the grant authority, SUSI due to punitive means testing of household income.

The maximum standard maintenance grant is only €3025. That amount might suffice for an academic year if the student is driving into UCD or TCD from Greystones or Dun Laoghaire, while enjoying full board free gratis at home.

However, Kerry’s high achieving students face a far different reality. Students from Kerry need an average of €14,000 annually to attend college away from home.

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The average monthly cost of accommodation in Dublin has exceeded €1,400, with costs almost doubling during the past five years.

There are many courses in Dublin, Maynooth and Galway that Kerry students would love to apply for.

Unfortunately, unless they come from wealthy backgrounds or have family accommodation in the city, rural students are restricted to courses nearer home.

Nine in ten parents are helping to fund their children’s education but are getting into considerable debt to do so. 60% of third level students are forced to live at home during term time.

Many are forced to make a daily return commute from Kerry to Limerick or Cork because they can’t afford the spiralling unregulated cost of student accommodation. Others are sleeping on a couch in the digs of college friends.

The majority of students are working at least fifteen hours per week while trying to keep up-to-speed with their studies.

The supply of rental accommodation is at a critically low level and students are competing for the most basic accommodation with those who cannot afford to purchase a home or are awaiting social housing.

Students, who normally live away from home during the academic year now face the prospect of missing out on college if they can’t, firstly, find accommodation and secondly, if they don’t have the means to pay for it.

The alternative is a long daily commute to and from college which is costly in terms of time, fatigue and finance.

In fact, application data reveals that the vast majority of college applicants from Kerry look no further than Tralee, Cork and Limerick as they now accept that accommodation in the Dublin and Galway regions is unaffordable.

Minister Harris should take note of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the British establishment which complained about spending on education in Scotland – ‘Education in Scotland is based on the ability to learn not on the ability to pay!’

If Minister Harris is serious about easing the financial burden on hard pressed families, he must immediately abolish the €3000 student fee contribution.

He must increase the standard maintenance grant from €3025 to €5000 and all other grants pro rata. He must increase the annual income level for standard grant eligibility to €50,000 from the current €39,875.

Otherwise, rural students can only dream about what might have been in careers denied them by Government procrastination!


• It will cost €14,000 to maintain a student in college this year (TUD Survey)
• The value of the non-adjacent grant is €3,025 and the adjacent grant is €1215
• The student contribution is a staggering €3000
• The standard maintenance grant must be increased from €3025 to €5000
• Income level for standard grant eligibility must be increased from €39,875 to €50,000
• Most Kerry students can’t afford to apply for courses in Dublin, Maynooth or Galway
• Many Kerry students are forced to make a daily return commute to Limerick or Cork
• Many students without accommodation are sleeping on a couch in a friend’s digs
• Many students are working 15hrs or more per week to make ends meet
• Money issues are the biggest concern for parents of college students
• Six in ten parents are forced into debt to fund their children’s third level education

Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor and Educational Commentator

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