ONE of the measurements that defines a decent society is the effort it makes to ensure that everyone can realise their potential.
This impetus is driven by the memory of so many talented people of earlier generations embittered because the education structures of their time excluded them because they did not have the money to pay for a full education.
Thankfully that has changed and by and large, nearly anyone who makes an effort and shows a degree of ability can expect to reach their academic goals. That, however, cannot be said for everyone.
There is still a group of people today who are effectively excluded from third level education. Many of those people left second-level school and went straight into the workforce but now wish to go to a third-level college but because they are expected to pay full fees that option is not open to them.
The Royal Irish Academy points out that more than 20,000 undergraduate part-time students pay more than €40m in fees but are not eligible for maintenance grants or other supports while 160,000 full-time students are supported by taxpayer-funded fees scheme and eligible for student supports.
This is terribly inequitable and outdated. Every citizen should be — once in their life — entitled to access third-level education and enjoy the kind of supports they would have got had they enroled after the leaving cert.
This kind of investment in people must pay dividends in the longer term.
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