ACCESSING third level college education is proving to be more and more difficult, parallel with increasing college fees, rent prices and declining support from governmental agencies according to the Chairperson of Beara Bantry Young Fine Gael, Wayne O’Sullivan.
College students from West Cork, both undergraduates and postgraduates, are being severely impacted by the cuts that are being opposed on them from the Department of Social Protection that outline the criteria for the Back to Education Allowance Scheme.
First things first said Mr O’Sullivan, there is two principles to be recognised and acknowledged. “Number one, we need to look after young people that wish to upskill and pursue a career and give them their opportunity to earn part time money. Number two, we need to protect the part time labour that is essential to the West Cork thriving tourist economy.” Instead of making things harder for students, who have to travel farther distances than any other students in Ireland and therefore don’t live at home, it must be ensured that they have as much support as possible.
The reference is on the Citizens Information Website and informs that “From 2016/17 academic year, BTEA participants, who take up part-time work within the academic year will be assessed in accordance with their primary payment”. Therefore students are being significantly compressed by new legislation and in the last couple of weeks and months I have been highlighting these issues to Minister Leo Varadker’s Office. “I did not know that this legislation was being brought in until numerous young people got in contact with me” says Wayne O Sullivan, Chairman of Beara/Bantry Young Fine Gael. He outlined that this new legislation was limiting the vast majority of students availing of BTEA.
Now that this part time work is being accessed, students will be more cautious about accepting work in fear that their upcoming grant will be impacted. With majority of our young people travelling to cities such as Cork and Limerick, it is understandable that people need to save for public transport costs, rent and day to day college living expenses. Due to the soaring rent prices we need to start making college more affordable and easy to attend, not difficult” says Wayne O’Sullivan who continued; “In order to do this we need to reverse such implications by speaking up and demanding our voices be heard. This issue needs to be dealt with as a matter of urgency”.
With jobs still being difficult to source, especially in communities such as West Cork, government policy needs to show their support for young people by investing into our rural communities and showing them we can provide help for them during college years and afterwards.