Date Uploaded: 19/02/2016
Thousands of low-income college students who attend private colleges are running up major debts because they are not eligible for grants, campaigners have warned.
While grants are available for eligible students in State-funded third-level institutions, no such support is available to those in so-called independent colleges.
The issue affects thousands of students in colleges such as Griffith College, Dublin Business School, the Institute of Business and Technology and others, who pay annual tuition fees of up to €5,500 a year.
Students who gathered at an event in Dublin to highlight the issue yesterday said it was grossly unjust that many low-income students were denied support.
Alisha Houlihan (19), a low-income student at Griffith College, said she felt discriminated against.
“There is stigma that we are all snobby or posh. It’s not true. I come from a family of nine in Co Mayo.
“My mum works for a meals-on-wheels. I would be eligible for a grant, but it’s denied to me because I chose to study at a private college,” she said.
Ms Houlihan, a journalism and visual communications student, added: “I had the points to study in a university or IT, but I chose this as my course because I liked it and it’s more challenging than others.”
Student Pierce Connolly said his family was penalised for his CAO course choice.
“My father is unemployed. I am eligible for Susi funding, but because I chose on CAO to study at a private college, we have had to take out loans of €30,000 over the past three years . . . This is completely unfair,” he said.
The Department of Education said private colleges operated on a for-profit basis and did not come under its remit.
“There are no plans at present to extend the scope of the student grant scheme to private colleges. However, tax relief on tuition fees may be available.”
More than 1,000 college students attending private colleges have signed a petition protesting over their lack of access to State grants.
Journalist: Carl O'Brien