I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore…

Dave Ryan gets personal about proposed budget cuts

[Though it will go without saying about ten words in, these are my opinions. Make of them what you will.]

In the entire history of this publication, short as it may be, I have personally never found a problem removing personal opinion from my reporting. It is the responsibility of journalists to report the facts of the matter in as unbiased a manner as is possible, the readership must make their own minds up. I have found it easy to do so, because no issue we have reported on has had profound effect on my own life. Until now. I have a responsibility to use what little of a soapbox I have to talk to you all about how these proposed cuts affect ME. I do not speak on behalf of my colleagues, nor do I speak on behalf of my peers, I speak to you now as just another student. You are welcome to discard or disagree with me, but at least you will be thinking about the issues

In the next budget, The Irish government is alleged to be planning cuts in education. Big ones. Specifically, doubling college registration fees (to 3000E) and further cuts to student grants.  This comes in nearly the fourth year of the greatest financial crisis our state has ever experienced. In my three-year tenure in third level education, we have ALREADY experienced a cut in grants, and a doubling of registration fees. In this humble author’s opinion, this is a cut too far.

Consider this. The proposed increase in reg. fees is 1500E. With this, the simple cost of registration for a three-year degree will be 9000E. This does not factor in the many additional costs students accrue through transportation, accommodation, books, and anything else pertaining directly to their college work. These spiralling costs mean that there are going to be an additional number of students, from lower-to-mid income families who will be unable to afford the pursuit of third level education. These should-have-been students will be thrust out into the job market straight out of school, and this is not a job market that will gently cradle them.  According to figures published in September 2010 by the Central Statistics Office, we currently have an unemployment rate of 13.7%. A figure of 5% or lower is considered a sign of a very healthy economy.  These students will be forced to compete in a job market with people far more experienced and qualified than them. Chances are, they will end up drawing the dole.

Based on the standard dole payment of €196, it will take these young people just over seven weeks to take in or around 1500E in payments from the government, the same figure the government believe to be gaining be jacking up registration fees. In my personal experience, the only thing that has stopped me drawing the dole is that I’m a full-time student, I’m not allowed to. If the students are going to cost the government this money anyway, why not let them do it in college, where they could eventually be qualified to do something the economy can actually benefit from?

Education in the modern world should always be, or at least be approaching, a meritocracy. Allow the brightest and most able students to become qualified, not the ones with a few thousand quid to spare. These measures could indeed lead to our country being robbed of a whole generation of gifted academics. Are we going to once again stand by and let our best and brightest go to waste, or go somewhere else?

Thomas Jefferson was alleged to have said ‘When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.’ Our government does not fear its students. Our demographic is often apathetic to matters of government. But once in a great while, we are presented with an opportunity to take a stand on a bigger scale, and Wednesday is a chance to do just that.

Had I been born three years later than I was, I would not be writing this piece now. I would not even be in college. These increases are a bridge too far for me, I simply could not afford college. Fact of the matter is, virtually no one I know could. And if the grant keeps getting cut, even that becomes scant consolation after a point.

You may think I am, for want of a better term, talking out of my arse. Fair enough, I make a habit of that. But that is my view, for your consideration, dear reader.

Rant over. Time for lunch.

Dave Ryan



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