STUDENT and drinks industry leaders are asking those starting college this month to think before they drink in a campaign that seeks to stop them flushing their studies down the drain.
In a series of images being placed on the floors and mirrors of the toilets in college bars, students are being reminded of the potential effects of excessive alcohol use. Life-size pictures will show young men and women passed out on the cubicle floors, while bathroom mirrors will remind students that they might look drop-dead gorgeous now, but they will not be so attractive if they drop down drunk.
The campaign runs all week at seven colleges in Dublin, Maynooth, Limerick, Waterford, Cork and Galway. It is supported by the Union of Students in Ireland, whose president Gary Redmond said that, while starting third level is exciting and brings new freedoms, it also brings the harsh realisation that adulthood has arrived and responsible decisions need to be made.
The campaign is organised by drinkaware.ie, part of the drinks industry’s MEAS (mature enjoyment of alcohol in society) organisation, which said many students stopped and thought about their drinking in response to a similar but smaller-scale initiative last year.
But as new entrants to college enjoy ‘freshers’ week’ events being run around colleges, USI also warned that thousands of students are having to take out expensive bank loans because of long delays in the processing of maintenance grants.
Up to 20,000 more third-level students are believed to have applied for grants than last year, but the 66 councils and Vocational Education Committees (VECs) which issue them have no extra resources to process them because of the public service recruitment ban.
“Last year there were horrendous difficulties because many students had to wait till April to get their first cheque, and this year thousands of them have no prospect of getting a grant this side of Christmas,” Mr Redmond said.
“In previous years, students would have got summer jobs to get them by until their grants arrived. But with the economy the way it is, very few could get work, so the only option left to them is to go to the banks and get loans, with colossal interest rates of between 7% to 11.5%,” he said.
Mr Redmond said others are forced to use credit cards, where interest charges are even higher at up to 25%.
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