Students to get laptops as part of €168m Covid-19 college fund

Students to get laptops as part of €168m Covid-19 college fund
More than 10,000 third-level students in Ireland are to get cash from a €15m fund to buy laptops or tablets to enable them study remotely, and colleges will share up to €150m to help them reopen this autumn. 

More than 10,000 third-level students are to be given money to buy laptops, iPads, and other tablets, and also to connect them to the internet so they can study from home.

Under a plan to be announced today by Simon Harris, the higher education minister, a new €15m fund will help students buy the devices, as many third-level campuses will not be fully open, forcing many to study remotely.

The initiative will also include a major fund of up to €150m for universities and institutes of technology to help them kit out their campuses so they can operate during the Covid-19 outbreak.

A total of €168m in funding is to be made available, the Irish Examiner has learned.

Just less than a tenth of the funding will be made available for access to devices and supports for online learning.

“This could help over 10,000 students access laptops, tablets, and internet connectivity,” a senior government source said.

The funding is set to be the subject of an announcement by Mr Harris and Michael McGrath, the public expenditure minister.

It is understood the matter was subject to Cabinet approval at last night’s meeting at Dublin Castle.

Sources have said they are to announce new student supports to help them address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been confirmed that:

  • Funding in excess of €160m for further and higher education costs and new student supports will be announced;
  • The Student Assistance Fund will be doubled from €8m to over €16m;
  • An additional €3m will be allocated for mental health supports in light of Covid-19.

“Students have incurred additional costs as the lockdown commenced, and will incur costs when they return in the autumn,” a Government source said. 

"This is at a time when many students have lost their part-time work and opportunities to avail of the J1 visa scheme."

It is understood that the funding will also cover costs incurred by third-level institutions ahead of reopening in September, including funding for the necessary health protection measures for students and staff.

While the aim is for students to return to campus, there will be funds to assist with online provision of modules and courses.

Mr Harris is to task the Higher Education Authority to “speedily” devise a scheme through which the supports are to be distributed to students. The funds are more than likely to be channeled through access offices in the seven universities and institutes.

It is also expected that Thursday’s delayed July stimulus package will include up to 10,000 additional training places to help those now seeking a new career.

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