Lisa will receive a €200 increase through the SUSI maintenance grant payment in 2022. This is the first rise since 2012. This is a positive development for Lisa as she progresses through her final year of study, however, it will not be sufficient to cover her basic living costs, such as food, heat, and utilities bills. Increasing SUSI maintenance grant rates to bring them in line with the cost of living would hugely benefit students like Lisa. As a first step in Budget 2022, they should have been increased by at least 10% or by €591 for a student in Lisa’s circumstances.
Approximately €17.2 million has been allocated to the Student Assistance Fund which was announced by Minister Harris the day before the budget. The SAF is available to help with costs such as books and class materials, rent and other utility bills, food, essential travel, childcare costs, and medical costs. While this is a welcome announcement, and should give a little reassurance to Lisa, as there is likely to be increased demand, as students continue to be impacted by rising accommodation costs and insufficient financial support provided through the student grant for 2021. Also, some universities have a closing date for applications and do not operate throughout the academic year. Ensuring sufficient funding is allocated to the Student Assistance Fund so that it can remain open throughout the academic year, and until SUSI maintenance grant levels are brought in line with the cost of living would have assisted Lisa through her studies.
Like many other students attending university, Lisa will continue to be faced with high accommodation costs, as Budget 2022 did not introduce measures to make renting accommodation more affordable. She was very fortunate to be able to return to the previous accommodation she had been renting in her second year of study. Some of her friends are commuting from home every day as they could not find somewhere to live near the university. An ambitious housing programme delivered through funding from Government and HEI’s to build student accommodation on campus is urgently needed.