North Antrim UUP MLA, Robin Swann has warned that many students attending further education colleges “could find themselves slipping uncontrollably into a student poverty trap because of totally unacceptable cuts in the hardship fund”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also UUP Chief Whip, called on the Alliance DEL Minister to “rethink his sums and divert much-needed funding back to the Student Hardship Fund”.
Mr Swann added: “In my own constituency, the Northern Regional College – still affectionately known to many as ‘The Tech’ – has a terrific reputation for providing top quality further and higher education.
“It would be a terrible shame if students either could not enrol on courses, or had to leave courses, because they could not afford to study through cuts to the hardship funding.
“For numerous students, the hardship funding is the essential difference between continuing their studies and dropping out of their courses.
“In pure cash terms, the Hardship Fund allocation for the Northern Regional College has decreased from £215,000 in the 2013/14 allocation to £158,384 in the 2014/15 allocation – a drastic cut of over £56,000.
“The DEL Minister urgently needs to rethink his sums and adopt a more positive attitude of putting students first. A price cannot be placed on preparing students for work and a constructive role in society and the wider community,” said Assemblyman Swann.