By Eithne Tierney
While politics, media and the economy have business owners in the spotlight, one sector of society remains somewhat unseen. The students. Since I started college, I could feel how the system regarded my position as a student, that of a luxury. As with many others I lost my part-time job, my only income in April when lockdown started.
On the €203 a week pandemic payment, a new academic year starts. It’s October, and I already owe money to NUI Galway, after I was charged to repeat online exams that I did not pass the first time because the transition to e-learning was rather rocky.
On top of that, I have this year’s fees to pay. NUIG needs me to pay €550 in total, 69% of my monthly income.
The most interesting part is that I won’t be setting a foot on campus, and I won’t be attending lectures via Zoom.
I’m on unpaid placement.
It puzzles me that I’m paying fees that I cannot afford to work for free. I cannot help but wonder where that money is going. Is it going to the professor’s wages that are lecturing me? No. Is it going toward the materials and services I will be consuming on campus? No. I’m away, working full–time for nothing, wondering how I will get by.
Ireland is trying to adapt to the current situation the pandemic has caused, and the sense of support and community at all social levels is probably the one good thing this virus has brought to our country.
This support works at a personal level and also at a social level through income supports and grants, such as the Covid-19 Working Capital scheme. All of us understood that, getting an income to afford a living is a serious matter, and that it’s not always possible to do so alone.
The sense of compassion we feel for business is fair, but why can’t those looking for an education get the same? NUIG has failed to provide an accessible education. The repeat exam fees, their flimsy academic plan for this academic year, where students were guaranteed to have physical lectures, and then asked them to return home as the lectures were going to mainly be online; their exorbitant student contribution fees, which are the highest in Europe and the sense of instability that this creates on students. It’s no wonder the hashtag #RipOffNUIG has grown in popularity with 15,600 results on google.
We work hard and we are in university working towards a better future, but it seems our youth prevents us from taking advantage of any financial support the government has to offer. However, universities can charge us like a for-profit company too.
I hoped that after the nation addressed some vulnerabilities, that universities, and the government might show some insight on how student life is not sustainable without assistance or intervention.
It is time to be together, not to profit off young minds.