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'Education is important. The government should pay us students to go to college'

I can’t afford to go to college in September because I am unemployed, writes Declan Lavin.

Image: Shutterstock/Indypendenz

I AM A student and I feel trapped. I can’t afford to go to college in September because I am jobless. However, because I am a student I cannot get jobseeker’s benefit. It’s a crazy Catch-22 situation that I have found myself in.

It is tragic that in 2017 poor people still have barriers put in front of them that prevent them breaking out of the poverty cycle. I’m only 20-years-old. What student is able to afford to pay €3,500 college fees plus travel costs to go to college? College is meant to be a launching pad. But only if you’re rich.

There is a grant system in place right now called SUSI to help students be able to afford college. But this system is flawed. It takes into account your proximity to the college and your whole family’s income, but doesn’t take into account whether your parents are separated or how many of your siblings are going to college as well.

I can’t find a summer job

If you’re an unemployed student, you are in a hopeless place. You cannot get any form of income. It is illegal in Ireland to claim the dole if you are a student but the problem is that there is a severe lack of job vacancies for students. Only certain job vacancies are suitable for students. We need weekend and evening hours. But most employers would prefer to take on someone who is available to work across the full week.

Right now I am unemployed and I feel helpless. I have always obeyed the rules, paid my taxes, and worked. But I have no job currently and no way to bring in income despite hundreds of applications to jobs around the country.

I don’t get the logic behind not giving people who are trying to improve their life jobseeker’s benefit. Do the government think students are rich? No student has money after leaving school even with a part-time job.

The Danish system pays students to study

The Danish government pays students to go to college and as a result Denmark is rated one of the happiest countries in the world due to its educated workforce and high living standards. Every Danish student receives about €900 per month.

This financial support does not have to be paid back even if students drop out, and the only major requirement for students to receive the full amount is that they do not live with their parents. Students receive the free funding for a maximum of six years, starting at the age of 18. Those who are particularly successful are eligible to receive additional payments.

I definitely think that the government should pay for college not only because education should be the main priority, but some students want to go to college and can’t afford it.

The government could also go down the road of making college completely free like Germany has. This would also reduce the stress of going to college if students didn’t have to worry about college fees.

Education lifts people out of poverty

If we keep neglecting our students, they will never better themselves and might even have to emigrate. Either way, it will be Ireland’s loss.  If all of us were given a good equal education then poverty would evaporate quickly.

It might cost the government a lot in the short-term, but in the long-term if everyone who wanted to was able to get free higher education, they would be able to get higher paying jobs after graduating. This would result in more money being put into our economy and eventually everyone would have a better standard of living.

College would cost me 3.5K which I can’t afford because I don’t have an income and unemployed students cannot get any sort of wage from the government despite them trying to better their lives. After I save up a bit of money I will probably emigrate to England and try to build a career for myself there instead. Ireland hasn’t given me any other option.

Declan Lavin is a 20-year-old unemployed student. 

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