Despite ‘free fees’, are universities still bastions of privilege?

Date Uploaded: 07/02/2017

Access programmes have failed to significantly loosen grip of better-off on top colleges

Dylan McGowan, president of the student union at Letterkenny IT: “Loans are not the answer to financial difficulties. It would be a catalyst for even more financial problems.” Photograph: Declan Doherty

Dylan McGowan, president of the student union at Letterkenny IT: “Loans are not the answer to financial difficulties. It would be a catalyst for even more financial problems.” Photograph: Declan Doherty 

At one point, Dylan McGowan was working five nights a week in a Smyth’s toy store to help make ends meet while in college. Now, as president of the students’ union at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, McGowan sees large numbers of students struggling to overcome financial hurdles on a daily basis.

“There are lots of students who aren’t from well-off backgrounds who need financial support to get through college,” he says. “The college chaplain has had to give loans to help students in financial trouble. It causes a lot of stress for students, especially if you’re waiting for your grant to be approved.”

In fact, Letterkenny IT has the highest proportion of grant-holders of any third-level college in the country: Almost three-quarters of its full-time students are entitled to some form of financial assistance from the State.

Grants are an important indicator of access to third-level across the social classes. That is because because eligibility is mainly based on an assessment of the income of students or their parents.

Income eligibility thresholds range from about €40,000 upwards a year, depending on factors such as the number of dependant children.

The better-off

An Irish Times analysis on the proportion of students on grants across the higher and further education sector last year contains some revealing findings. It shows a striking class divide, with students from better-off families far more likely to occupy places at the country’s top universities.

For example, only a minority of students at UCD (27 per cent) and Trinity College Dublin (28 per cent) are in receipt of grants. Students from less well-off backgrounds, by contrast, are much more likely to be studying at institutes of technology.

The pattern is even more extreme among institutes of technology in regional areas. While Letterkenny IT has the highest concentration of grant-holders (74 per cent), it is followed by Athlone IT (73 per cent) and IT Carlow (71 per cent).

At one point, Dylan McGowan was working five nights a week in a Smyth’s toy store to help make ends meet while in college. Now, as president of the students’ union at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, McGowan sees large numbers of students struggling to overcome financial hurdles on a daily basis.

“There are lots of students who aren’t from well-off backgrounds who need financial support to get through college,” he says. “The college chaplain has had to give loans to help students in financial trouble. It causes a lot of stress for students, especially if you’re waiting for your grant to be approved.”

In fact, Letterkenny IT has the highest proportion of grant-holders of any third-level college in the country: Almost three-quarters of its full-time students are entitled to some form of financial assistance from the State.

Grants are an important indicator of access to third-level across the social classes. That is because because eligibility is mainly based on an assessment of the income of students or their parents.

Income eligibility thresholds range from about €40,000 upwards a year, depending on factors such as the number of dependant children.

The better-off

An Irish Times analysis on the proportion of students on grants across the higher and further education sector last year contains some revealing findings. It shows a striking class divide, with students from better-off families far more likely to occupy places at the country’s top universities.

For example, only a minority of students at UCD (27 per cent) and Trinity College Dublin (28 per cent) are in receipt of grants. Students from less well-off backgrounds, by contrast, are much more likely to be studying at institutes of technology.

The pattern is even more extreme among institutes of technology in regional areas. While Letterkenny IT has the highest concentration of grant-holders (74 per cent), it is followed by Athlone IT (73 per cent) and IT Carlow (71 per cent).

Source: www.irishtimes.com

Journalist: Carl O'Brien

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Comments Closed

  • Graduate Employers Video Profiled
  • Universities/Colleges Video Profiled
  • Professional Bodies Video Profiled