Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has announced €22 million in additional funding for student supports in higher-education institutions.
Some €17.2 million of the funding will be allocated to the Student Assistance Fund, while €5 million will go towards additional mental health supports in colleges across Ireland.
In a press statement, Harris said: “When we set about getting staff and students back to college campuses, we also made a commitment we would put supports in place to make this happen. Today, I am delighted to follow through on that commitment with the announcement of two very important funds.”
“Students have endured an incredibly difficult 18 months due to COVID-19. They are now back on campus but they still need significant support – financial and other. The Student Assistance Fund is a fund that is in place for students who might be financially struggling, and today we are confirming €17 million for students”, he said.
The Student Assistance Fund helps students cover expenses such as books, rent, essential travel, medical care, food and childcare.
Trinity will receive €966,375. Twenty seven other third-level institutions are set to receive some of the funding, including University College Cork (UCC), which last week opened a food bank for students unable to afford food.
The money allocated to mental health supports will pay for additional student counsellors and psychologists, as well as training for university staff to help them refer students to the appropriate services.
Trinity will receive €307,000 of the €3 million fund.
Harris said: “The long-term impact of the pandemic on young people’s mental health has the potential to be significant.”
“We invested €5 million in services and increasing staff numbers last year and this additional €5 million will enable the continued provision and enhancement of student counselling services and the roll-out of innovative mental health and wellbeing supports for students and training for staff.”
In its pre-budget submission, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) asked for an additional investment of €28.5 million in mental health services to ensure there is a mental health nurse and a counsellor or psychologist per 1,000 students in every Higher Education Institution (HEI).
The document said: “Often on campus student mental health services are under-resourced and underfunded, resulting in long waiting lists.”
“The Government needs to invest in student mental health and wellbeing as research shows that supporting student mental health can improve academic performance, retention, and graduation rates. Students with mental health problems were twice as likely to leave higher education without graduating.”