In November I spoke at a policy seminar about the real threat of low income families being ‘locked out’ of third level education.
SVP has been working with people struggling to afford the cost of education in Ireland for many decades. Our members who give educational support to families and individuals intuitively know that where you start out in life need not be where you end up. Their aim is to get people to think that education may be for them . They understand the transformative power and potential of education and they know the difference it can make in the long run to a person’s life chances.
But the statistics tell a stark story. 99% of young people from the Dublin 6 district area go on to Third Level College while only 15% from Dublin 17 do. All across the country young people from higher professional backgrounds are five times more likely to go on to Higher Education than those whose parents are semi-skilled or unskilled manual workers.
We need this to change. We understand the reasons why many young people from low income homes or those with disabilities don’t consider college as an option for them. The cost of getting into and staying in third level education, especially for those who must live away from home during their studies, is simply a bridge too far for many low income families. While the various challenges facing those who live with a disability can be overwhelming if you don’t know about the supports which exist to help you out.
One of the practical ways we are supporting families this year is through our partnership with the organisers of the Hear and DARE schemes which target both students from low income homes and those with disabilities, to support them into third level study. In the coming months SVP members will be getting information and application forms out to parents of children who are about to complete their Leaving Cert and will be on hand to tell parents how these schemes can help them.
But we also need some inherent changes to the way in which students can access higher education. We have been working closely with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on their Plan to improve Equity of Access to Third Level. We wrote a submission which was very well received by the HEA, have contributed to a round table on access to third level, and will be attending another one on funding later this week.
We will continue to make sure that the people designing policy get a real insight into how tough it can be for those who cannot afford the cost or overcome the barrier of their disability. Our blend of on the ground experience and policy analysis must be heard by those who are making important decisions about the future of third level education.