Government is considering a reduction in the annual €3000 Student Contribution Charge paid by third-level students.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Recovery and Investment is discussing plans for a more sustainable funding model for higher education, including a reduction in the €3000 fee, which remains the highest in the European Union after Brexit.
The new funding package for the third-level sector is due to be published before the end of February.
This development follows a report on the future of higher education funding that was conducted by the European Commission.
Government have reportedly ruled out introducing a student loan scheme, one of the funding options in the 2016 Cassells Report, in favour of increased State investment to provide the additional funding recommended for third-level.
Cabinet is also considering an expansion of the SUSI grant scheme, which would result in more students being entitled to access funding for tuition fees and maintenance grants.
In a press release published yesterday, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) welcomed reports that government is planning to make a “significant reduction” to the Student Contribution Charge.
In its Pre-Budget Submission to government ahead of the 2022 Budget, the USI outlined a three-year plan to abolish fees, with a €1000 reduction each year.
Announced in October last year, no changes were made to the Student Contribution Charge in Budget 2022. Higher education was allocated €68m, including an expansion of the SUSI grant scheme, the creation of more CAO places, and funding for mental health services.
The USI announced yesterday that it would welcome a €1000 reduction in this year’s Budget.
It would cost government over €80m to cut the Contribution Charge by €1000, and €245m to completely abolish the €3000 fee for students.
USI President Clare Austick said: “We know that Minister Harris has agreed with us that the Student Contribution fee, which is currently the highest in the EU, is too high and that it prevents many people from accessing higher education and that that needs to change.”
“USI will continue to campaign for the end of fees, but in the meantime the reduction would be very welcome for students, many of whom are struggling with financial hardship.”
Austick continued: “Making a significant reduction to the Student Contribution Charge would also recognise the importance and value of our education system. Education is a right and not a privilege, service or business.”
“USI firmly believes that anyone who wants to attend third-level should be able to, and cost should never be a barrier to that”, the president concluded.