Thousands of students marched in Cork, Dublin, and Sligo yesterday to highlight their opposition to furthers cuts to third-level supports.
According to USI president Joe O’Connor, the maintenance grant had been hit in four consecutive budgets yet the cost of college continued to spiral upwards.
Up to 800 students from eight colleges across Dublin and Maynooth took part in a protest on Molesworth St, opposite Leinster House, last evening.
In Cork, around 1,000 people marched to the city centre from local and other Munster colleges, although only around 300 stuck it out, after a torrential downpour, to listen to student leaders spell out their anger at the Grand Parade.
Danny O’Donovan, CIT Students’ Union president, said students sustained small businesses and families in college towns around the country every day, with 30,000 attending colleges in Cork city alone.
However, he said, a student living near college on the highest level of grant has to survive on €6.50 a day if the payment is stretched across the full year, which they must do because any summer work earnings would affect their grant.
“By the time you get to CIT on a bus, and by the time you feed yourself, you have only 10c left in your pocket. The reason we’re pissed off is because the Government are going cutting the grants and raising fees,” he said.
It is already known that student fees for those who do not get a grant will rise another €250 to €2,750 next year, while there are fears of further cuts to student grants in the budget this month, following reductions and increases in income thresholds over recent years.
UCC student Cian Power said he feels blessed having a grant in college, but life is getting harder for everybody. But it is particularly tough for those depending on student supports.
“It’s about scraping coppers in the morning when you’re trying to feed yourself. The constant worry of finances and trying to survive has dominated my head space,” he said.
“Extreme stress, starvation and long days are my college experiences and this is the experience of every single student suffering hardship.”
Karen Sheahan, president of the student union at Institute of Technology Tralee, said students were not going to stand by idly and watch the Government cut student supports.
“We have a duty as young people, we have to fight for our future and the future of others to come,” she said.
Students who withstood the heavy rain also included representatives from Limerick Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology, University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).
Earlier, up to 2,000 students from six colleges took part in a march in Sligo.