[Sinn Fein]

4 December 2000

SF support USI protest on student grants

Supporting the call from USI protesters for improved grants to assist third-level students from low-income backgrounds Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caolain said:

``A report of the Higher Education Authority this year has shown that there has been no significant improvement in the number of school-leavers from poor backgrounds reaching university over the past five years. The figures show that of 14,000 students graduating from universities in this State only 2.2 per cent come from households headed by an unskilled or semi-skilled worker. This is a disgraceful figure.

``The abolition of university fees has done nothing to help the children of the least well off to get into college. They still cannot get to the starting line because of the prohibitive costs of going to college. They cannot live on the totally inadequate grants now available. Students from outside the university cities face the additional disincentive of the acute shortage of accommodation and the high cost of that accommodation if they are lucky enough to obtain it.

``The government must act to allow access to university  to all on the basis of educational merit. It must provide increased maintenance grants to students from low income backgrounds. It needs also to initiate special measures to provide student accommodation in the context of addressing the overall housing crisis.''

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