Dublin City University is one of four Irish universities which engage with debt collecting agencies to pursue outstanding fees from students.
Grainne Mooney, a public relations officer for DCU said: “The university uses a third party independent agency, where necessary, to follow up on outstanding amounts owing to the university. The third party agency operates under procedures and protocols agreed with the university.”
Last week it emerged that University College Dublin, Ireland’s largest university, is offering a contract worth in excess of €200,000 to a debt collection company. An EU tender notice reveals that UCD is “seeking expressions of interest from interested parties to provide professional services relating to collection of outstanding monies within UCD”.
The University of Limerick (UL) and the National University of Ireland in Maynooth (NUIM) also employ debt collectors to chase students for monies owed.
As colleges and universities around the country come under financial pressure as a result of state cuts to funding, Sheena Doyle, Press Officer for UL said: “As a public body the University of Limerick has a duty to seek to recover outstanding debts. Students are currently not permitted to graduate with outstanding student fee debt. Having applied a range of debt collection practices, UL, like other Irish universities and other public bodies, uses external mechanisms as a last resort in recovering long standing debts.”
Doyle noted UL does not issue legal proceedings over outstanding student fees.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for NUIM said: “Where all other alternatives have been exhausted and repeated attempts to communicate have been unsuccessful we outsource the debt retrieval to an agency. Students owing outstanding fees cannot graduate from the University.”
National University of Ireland Galway, University College Cork and Trinity College Dublin do not use debt collection agencies to collect fees that are owed.
The news comes at a time when a backlog of student grants is only beginning to be paid.
John Logue, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), condemns the use of debt collectors. “The dramatic increases in college fees in recent years has seen far too many students drop out of college. Their work prospects have already taken a hit as a result of not graduating, yet these universities are demonstrating gross insensitivity by employing debt collectors when they should be working with the students to come to a more amicable arrangement.”
But as Sarah Miley of the Department of Education noted, “Higher Education Institutions are autonomous bodies and the Department has no role in their day to day operational affairs. However the Department would hope that institutions deal with students in a sensitive and understanding manner in relation to the payment of any outstanding arrears”.