Finance Minister Yair Lapid announced on Thursday the allocation of NIS 150 million toward student housing at a National Union of Israeli Students event, Habama Hamercazit (Center Stage), in Nordia, a moshav in the country’s center.Lapid said the funds would help build 5,000 additional units in student dormitories by 2016 – 1,000 in the periphery and 4,000 in areas of high demand – in an effort to lower real estate prices throughout the country.“I know that in the past there were promises made that remain unfulfilled, and that is why we did not come here with empty statements but with a practical plan, organized, that was finalized together with all implementing parties including student organizations,” Lapid told an auditorium full of university students.Chairman of the NUIS, Ori Reshtick, who opened the panel event, outlined the main concerns facing students today, primarily the financial situation of students and the lack of affordable housing options.“It cannot be that students in Israel, that are supposed to focus on building their future, are occupied with surviving and struggling to live in dignity and receive basic housing conditions,” he said. “In order for young people in Israel to become citizens who contribute to the state and to society, the state must ensure that they can focus on action rather than on survival.“Today we have started a new era and are moving from revolution to resolution. We welcome the initiative to promote the construction of additional student dormitories and will continue to work to improve the quality of life of young people in Israel,” added Reshtick.The NUIS event also included remarks from MK Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid) and Prof. Manuel Trajtenberg, chairman of the Council of Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, who lauded the Finance Ministry decision.“The presence of the finance minister at this event indicates a new spirit of accomplishing feats together; I hope this represents a new approach and not just because of the chemistry of the individuals involved,” said Trajtenberg. The PBC chairman continued on to outline the accomplishments achieved in Israeli academia over the past year.According to Trajtenberg, the past year saw 680 new faculty members, divided evenly between universities and colleges – many of whom returned from abroad. Furthermore, 12 new centers of academic excellence and research, attracting top researchers from around the world, were built in universities throughout the country.Despite these achievements, Trajtenberg also outlined the many challenges facing Israeli academia, primarily the lack of access to higher education among Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations and the fact that 50 percent of the population does not reach higher education.Furthermore, Trajtenberg said that compared to the rest of the Western world, Israel lags behind in the “knowledge economy,” due to an average six year gap between completing high school and beginning university studies.The NUIS Habama Hamerkazit event marked one discussion in a series aimed toward bringing together students with public officials and politicians to discuss the topics and issues on the national agenda.