The number of third-level students that have received financial grants over the past five years has risen by 18,778 in Ireland.
According to figures provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), the number of students that have received financial grants rose from 60,022 in the academic year 2013-2014 to 78,778 in the academic year 2016-2017. That is an increase of 31%.
In the academic year 2013-2014, the number of third-level students that were awarded grants was 73,326, that number drastically increased by over 5,000 to 79,861 students in the year 2014-2015.
For many, the student grant scheme is the only possible way for them to attend university, with student contribution fees currently set at €3,000 per year, more than trebling since 2008.
In 2002, the registration fee rose by 70%, from €396 to €670. This was followed by a further increase to €750 in 2003. Fees gradually built up over the following six years, and jumped from €900 to €1,500 in 2009, and then again to €2,000 in 2010, and are now at the current contribution of €3,000 in 2015.
On top of this €3,000 a year, there are travel costs, accommodation, living costs and books which can add up to a hefty amount for students.
In recent reports by the European Commission, it was found that Irish third-level students pay the second highest fees in Europe, after England, where students pay up to £10,000 a year for tuition.
The idea of a student loans scheme has been put forward in the past, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar quickly ruled it out.
This proposal of a student loan scheme resulted in thousands of students protesting last year in October, calling for more public investment in third-level education in Ireland.
The Union of Students in Ireland are against this loan scheme, which they said will result in a radical increase in student fees from €3,000 up to €5,000 and could leave students graduating with a debt of at least €20,000.
By Aimee Walsh