Deputy Michael Healy-Rae has called on the newly appointed Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Research, Simon Harris, to ensure a clear and consistent approach on the return to third level for students, at least during first semester is provided immediately.

“Many rural parents in particular are out of pocket putting down large deposits on accommodation which may not be needed due to the blended learning approach of colleges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis,” he said this week.

“In some instances families who receive no grant support are being asked to pay a first instalment deposit of €4,100 by the beginning of August to secure accommodation, which may not actually be needed as some colleges will opt for an online approach which may see the student only attending the college one day a week.”

Due to the fact that many students have not been able to work, they are now once again over depending on their family for financial support.

“Parents will always do the very best that they can do for their children to attend college especially in rural areas. But at a time when accommodation has never been more difficult to source and never been more expensive, is it really fair to ask parents to pay for accommodation that they might only need for one night a week, while colleges are getting their COVID-19 return plans in place.”

“We need to have clear timetables and direction from all third level institutions on how they will deliver their learning to enable parents and students make informed decisions about accommodation. Currently many are being put through unneeded distress at a time when many may have already lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae hopes that the newly created Department for Higher Education, Innovation and Research gives this matter its full attention.