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University Times: What does the budget mean for students?

In collaboration with Alex Payne


Who is the budget actually going to affect?

The 2023/2024 budget will directly impact postgraduates; students who are eligible for the free fees initiative; students who use the Student Assistance Fund; students who have SUSI maintenance loans and students whose household income is under €55,924; students who use public transport.





Postgraduates

January 2024 will mark the first time since the financial crash that postgraduates may apply for student maintenance grants. How much a postgraduate student is entitled to will depend on how close they live to their college and their income. Postgraduate students who receive a Postgraduate Contribution Grant will see the amount of this grant will increase from €4,000 to €5,000 for the 2023/2024 academic year. The increase in the Postgraduate Contribution Grant is a “one off cost-of-living measure” so it is unclear whether it will be kept in place after this academic year.


Students who are eligible for the Free Fees Initiative

All students who are eligible for the Free Fees Initiative will see a €1,000 reduction in their student contribution fee for the 2023/2024 academic year. This is a one-off payment to help with the cost of living crisis.


Students who use the Student Assistance Fund

The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) is a fund run by the HEA (Higher Education Authority) which provides financial support to students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending college. Students can apply for this on top of their SUSI grant. This fund will help with costs not borne by your college such as books, rent, utility bills, food and travel. The fund’s budget will almost double in size as it increases from €8.9 million last year to €17 million this year. This should mean that more students experiencing financial difficulties are able to access monetary support from the fund. The increased budget was only announced for this academic year as a one-off to help with the cost of living crisis.


Students who receive SUSI maintenance grants

All students who currently receive SUSI maintenance grants will see an increase in the size of their grant. The size of this increase will depend on which band they are in (which is determined by their income) and at which rate they are paid their grant, the two options are: adjacent (which is for students who live under 30 km away from their college) and non-adjacent (which is for students who live more than 30 km from their college). The increases in the size of these grants will come in from January 2024.


As a result of last year’s budget, those with a household income of between €62,000 and €100,000 can also apply for a €500 student contribution fee reduction this academic year.


Students who have a household income under €55,924

From September 2024 onwards any student who has a household income of under €55,924 will not have to pay student contribution fees.


Public Transport

All those under 26 years old can now avail of the 50 per cent discount in public transport fares. Last year this only included those under 24 years old. This scheme will stay in place for at least the next two years. The 20% discount for all adults using public transport has been extended and will continue for the next year. Transport Minister Eamon Ryan also vowed to make public transport free for those up to the age of 18 in the future.


How will this impact other measures brought in earlier to tackle the cost of living crisis?

Budget 2024 shows the Government is trying to balance cost-of-living measures whilst trying to secure Ireland’s long-term economic resilience. This year the Irish budget surplus (a budget surplus is when the government spends less money than it has brought in that year) reached around €10 billion due to increasing levels of tax on overseas companies.


Last year the Government spent €4.1 billion on one-off measures to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis, this year they reduced that amount to €2.7 billion. This reduction can be seen as a reflection of the concerns over inflation, as more money spent could result in higher rates of inflation. Reduction in spending on one-off measures was countered by a renewed focus on the Infrastructure, Nature and Climate Fund.


The government also announced the launch of a new Future Ireland Fund, which “will help to protect living standards and public services for current and future generations,” according to Minister for Finance Martin McGrath. It is due to receive 0.8% of GDP, currently just over €4 billion, from 2024 to 2035 and should reach a value of €100 billion over that period. Spending on funds such as these is seen as less likely to increase inflation as the spending will happen over a number of years and therefore will not enter the economy straight away.

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