College Life

Paid work over attending lectures?

It’s no news that summer jobs have become a thing of the past with many students working year-round to support themselves through college. However, The Irish Times recently reported a staggering increase in the number of students opting to skip lectures in order to pick up some extra hours at work – from 22% in 2017 to 55% in April 2019.

In 2010, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) published a review of student charges which presents a current reader with the unfathomable realisation that student contribution fees once existed at only £150.

Today, the fee stands at €3000, and while earlier this year, An Taoiseach announced his reluctance to increase the student contribution fee; I think we can all agree, given that the fee has doubled in the last 10 years, such promises can be taken with a pinch of salt.

It’s not surprising that with increasing college fees, and rise in rent costs throughout Ireland, that there would be a paralleled surge in the number of students skipping class for paid work, whether it be to aid their parents in financing their education or if they are the sole investors in their future.

And to be honest I’m becoming more and more disgusted at the constant stream of Facebook ads I see for these new “student accommodations” with their rooftop gardens and state of the art gym facilities, which most students pay their college for anyways. In what world does it make sense to offer these excessive, and frankly inaccessible residences to students, whether they receive financial aid or not?

As well as this, you must note the magnitude of courses that require additional finances which aren’t explicitly displayed pre-registration, specifically in healthcare courses, where students are required to pay for even more accommodation outside Dublin in order to attend placements.

But putting aside the necessities, one has to appreciate that a lot of the pressures that come with college come from the social side of student life which heavily influences whether a student feels the need to take on paid work on top of their studies. It is well-versed that your college years are the best years of your life but not all of us can dip into our “trust funds” like Jenny Joyce.

Your education shouldn’t be undermined on the basis of your parent’s income. Obviously it’s great if your parents can support all your needs from tuition fees to your night club entries and that shouldn’t be begrudged, but when an extreme exists whereby students are forced to drop out if they fail exams and wind up unemployed, eventually costing the taxpayer more, some form of standardisation needs to be considered to enforce education as an entitlement as opposed to being a privilege.

If fees were lower, perhaps there would be less of a need for SUSI grants. Those dependent on it could put it towards their accommodation and other essentials, and there would be an opportunity to eliminate those who fob off the system and either drink their grants or use them to travel at their leisure. Evidently, there needs to be a reformation of the application and approval process to make it a more fair system for those actually debilitated by financial burdens associated with third-level education.

Everyone has different circumstances and it’s unfair to assume anything by people’s lifestyle choices, whether they skip lectures to work to afford to pay their rent or if they’re working because they don’t expect their parents to fund their social life on top of their education and housing requirements.