Grants go down as value of education goes up

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Getting to college has always been a commendable achievement in an academic sense, but the funding challenges faced by students now makes it a financial one too.

The value of further and third-level education to students has never been higher. Jobs are becoming more complex and because there is still a shortage for them, competition is greater than ever.

This combination of limited post-secondary level options and intense competition over the work opportunities that are out there has resulted in a huge increase in college applications over the last few years. This can, of course, be seen in a positive light as school-leavers and mature learners continue to improve and develop their skills and receive the training needed to find work.

Yet there is a downside too. Because of the financial difficulties faced by so many families, almost half of the students in higher education are now receiving government grants. The Irish Independent reports that out of the 191,000 students in higher or further education, close to 77,000 are receiving government support.

This places a huge financial strain on the student grant scheme’s capacity to support college goers. To combat this strain, the value of grants has deteriorated, meaning that going to college has, for many, become too expensive. It is a difficult, Catch-22-type situation. Spend more and get the labour force trained up, or ease the financial burden on the state and deprive many of limited means with a chance to compete on even footing.

There is no simple answer to the dilemma. The students who are lucky enough to attend college – and the parents, teachers and guidance counsellors who facilitate their path there  – must simply do what is within their power and ensure that they research available college programmes thoroughly before making their choice. Education is certainly a right, but we’d be wise to treat it as a privilege.


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