Mature students face a tough challenge getting back to education

By Aisling Kett

Mature students in DCU say Budget 2012 will make it more difficult to return to education at a time when people need to further their qualifications to become more employable.

The overall consensus at a weekly coffee morning held for mature students was that the Budget will make it more difficult for mature students to pursue third level education.

They believe that cuts, raised taxes, and an increase in the registration fee will not deter older students from trying to gain a place in college, however.

Mature and postgraduate students in DCU will be heavily affected by the measures announced last week.

Every Thursday, the Mature Students Society holds a coffee morning in the Inter Faith Centre where both mature and postgrad students are invited to attend. Four mature students explained how Budget 2012 will affect them.

Stephen Kennelly, a second year Psychology student, said that the effects of the Budget could be “really bad depending on your circumstances”. He said that any rise in costs, no matter how small, makes a difference.

Mary Black, in her second year of Contemporary Culture and Society, returned to college as she was “not prepared to do nothing” after retirement.

Chairperson of the Mature Students Society Amanda McDonald, a second year Psychology student, quit a job at IBM and went volunteering for a year before returning to education. She said she chose her degree because of an interest in the subject, and not specifically with job prospects in mind.

Richard O’Neill, who is studying Physics with Astronomy, was made redundant at the start of the year. He is the only student out of the four to return to college for employment reasons.

The maintenance grant for future postgrad students will be abolished next year. The registration fee for third level students will increase by €250, up 12.5 per cent.

A contribution grant will be made to postgrad students from low-income backgrounds. Fees will continue to be paid on behalf of those who already qualified for support.

The Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, who announced the measures, said abolishing the postgrad grant will save around €12.6 million. Increasing the registration fee will raise around €18 million.

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