Today, I am honoured as the spokersperson on Further and Higher Education to announce an ambitious educational vision in Sinn Féin’s alternative budget.
Students and their families need a break from the highest fees in the EU and ever-increasing cost of accessing education.
For the last 10 years, successive governments have underfunded our third-level education. That has pushed the financial burden on to students and their families.
The Sinn Féin Alternative Budget 2021 sends a clear message that we are the party to end this and to put fairness at the heart of our education system.
Our aim is to phase out fees completely. This year, we have shown how we can reduce fees by €500 immediately at a cost of €13.43 million.
We are acutely aware that our higher education institutes cannot continue to take on unsustainable debts to replace government funding. We will provide €60 million in additional core funding.
Despite the economic challenges we face, Sinn Féin have prioritised education. We, as a party, see this as a vital instrument of growth and recovery.
We aim to drastically expand and improve apprenticeships, to do this we have earmarked €74 million in additional spending to make this a reality.
Fairness and equality of access is at the heart of our vision for education right throughout the lifecycle. That is why Sinn Fein would increase the thresholds for SUSI to ensure more access for hard working families on modest incomes. We would also increase the SUSI grant amount by 10 percent. We will expand the criteria for over-25s to apply as independent adults. This would end the situation where mature students, often with children of their own, are excluded.
All reforms amount to an investment of €14.9 million. This will be paid for by reforming the tax system so that the wealthiest people and corporations pay their fair share. Under this budget, no one earning less than €100,000 would be asked to pay more.
Now, more than ever, we need an ambitious plan to save our third level education system and ensure that we have a well-trained and educated population.