Ógra Fianna Fail bite back at USI

Ógra Fianna Fail have strongly refuted the Union of Students in Ireland’s (USI) claims that their student loan proposal would “desecrate” Ireland.

The Fianna Fail youth branch launched their income contingent student loan proposal at the end of October. Their proposed scheme would give students the option of availing of a loan for their education which they would not be obliged to pay back until they are in a financial position, post-graduating to do so.

“The way an income contingent loan system is set up, it cannot possibly become overwhelming to students. Student debt, as it is is overwhelming because as it is they’re forced to go to private banks which ask for the money up front the second they graduate on very high rates. If it’s income-linked it can never become unsustainable,” Ógra Fianna Fail president, Eoin Neylon explained in an interview with The College View.

Neylon lambasted the current system in place saying it allows for equality of opportunity not equality of access. “We have a situation in Ireland where we’re asking students to pay €3000 in registration fees, upfront I don’t know how anyone could call that free fees because it is very obvious to us that the era of free fees in gone. What we are looking at is a system of getting as many people into third level education as they want,” he said

The USI strongly opposed the group’s proposal in a statement on their website. “It would desecrate Ireland, tearing it apart and converting it from the land of saints and scholars into the land of corporate greed and economically paralysed,” the statement read. The Ógra president strongly rejects these claims.

“What USI have done is they have looked at student loan systems which are not ideal- UK and USA, but that’s not what Ógra has proposed. Yes those systems are not ideal and they have their flaws, that’s why we didn’t back those, that’s why we’re not calling for those systems. We’re calling for a very different system. A hybrid of the New Zealand and Australian models which have huge successes in getting young people into college,” Neylon said.

The current grant awarding scheme would be sustained in tandem with Ógra’s proposal. “The grant system in fantastic, and it has done wondrous things for people from bad socioeconomic backgrounds. We are proposing it is kept as is, in fact we want the grant system expanded to cover postgrads as well that were cut out of the current system,” said Neylon.

Katie O’Neill

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