Thousands of students have today received their Leaving Cert results, after an anxious few months, where the exact detail of the grading system was still up in the air, and exam preparations were taking place in completely unprecedented circumstances.
It has been a testing and stressful time for young people, and this year, student will have a very different experience of college, in the middle of a global pandemic.
Lectures, tutorials, library access and practical work in labs and on placement will be reduced or changed dramatically because of Covid-19 and online learning will play a far larger role. This will undoubtedly mean added stress and an inferior quality of education delivered.
Outside of changes to teaching and learning, students will find it more difficult to find work, having missed out on summer income in many cases too. Just getting by will be tough for many this academic year.
In this uniquely challenging situation, college fees ought to be waved or dramatically reduced and extra financial supports should be given to those who need them.
At the best of times, Ireland has the second highest college fees in the EU.
Taken with expensive student accommodation and other costs, fees restrict access to education.
The heavy financial burden placed on students hurts their academic performance, their social lives and mental health.
This will force people out of education and discourage school students from attending college in the first place. This is unacceptable.
Education should be free and valued as a public good that benefits all of society.
Students have had a difficult enough time this year, they deserve a break.