The third level Student Contribution Charge is on par to rise by €250 a year for the next three years.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin announced the increases during his Budget 2013 speech in the Dáil last Wednesday. This will see third level students paying €3,038 in college fees in 2015.
There were no cuts to the maintenance grant, however all income threshold levels on which the grant awarded is based will be reduced by 3%, with the exception of the special rate and postgraduate rate. This will lead to a reduction of up to €755 a year for students in receipt of a grant.
For those on the Back to Education Allowance, the one-off award of €300 has been scrapped. The allowance will now be equal to that payable on the qualifying social protection payment.
Funding allocated to third level institutions will be reduced by €25 million next year and according to the Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) 2013 budget guide, approximately 79% of this will be tied up in salaries under the Croke Park Agreement.
It was also announced during the budget speech that construction of the new Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) campus in Grangegorman will begin next year.
Commenting on the budget, Chairperson of DCU Ógra Fianna Fáil, Fintan Phelan said: “This is a time when we should be encouraging as many young people as possible to stay in education. It is certainly not fair and the measures announced will hit the most disadvantaged school leavers hardest.
“The student contribution fee is increasing by €250 again in 2013. This has been well flagged but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Minister Quinn is overseeing the largest increase in student fees of any Minister for Education. Minister Quinn made false promises to students to get elected and he must now take responsibility for the choices he has made.”
Chairperson of DCU Young Fine Gael, Ryan Hunt felt that the budget was difficult for everyone but that this was necessary. “We knew beforehand that registration fees would rise by €250 and we weren’t disappointed. This will provide further challenges to student who were already in financial difficulty but that is the reality of our economic situation.
“It must be a priority of our government to ensure that education remains attainable for all and that standards do not falter. It has been the view of the branch for some time that we will need to see a new system of funding adopted, with a loan scheme being preferable.”
DCU Sinn Féin Chairperson, Dave Clougher believes this budget will lead to more unemployment and austerity. “This budget constitutes a bill of over €1,000 for many already hard-pressed families in Ireland. Six austerity budgets in and it is apparent that austerity is simply not working. This budget will lead to more unemployment and emigration.”
Derek McKenna, Chairperson of DCU’s Socialist Party feels that the “extra €250 that students are now being expected to stump up year on year, in conjunction to cuts in maintenance grants and cuts to Back to Education Allowance, will inevitably lead to more hardship for students and an increase in those dropping out from their courses.
“The cut of €25 million to higher education will place further pressure on under-funded universities, and will no doubt affect the quality of the education being provided.”