Students hit out at “college is too cheap” comment by UCC President

Christine O'Mahony

 University College Cork’s president, John O’Halloran, told the Irish Examiner last week that he believes that an “honest conversation” should be had  about the price of college.

O’Halloran stated that this was “cheap” in comparison to some private secondary schools.

O’Halloran said, “I have concluded 7,500 conferrings by the end of the next two weeks”, “one of the messages people have said to me, and this won’t be popular, but why is education so cheap? Why is it only €3,000 a year? It is a difficult subject but some people will be paying more than that for second-level schools today and when they come to university they are paying less”.

Students across the country were angered by these comments made to the Irish Examiner.

The College View heard from a UCC student and two UCC alumni about their views on the matter.

UCC student, Atakan Uzun, told The College View, “he seems to have a short memory of students in his own college queuing up for the UCC Students Union food bank, in which they ran out of food after 50 minutes. I am a student which relies on the SUSI grant and my parents to get me through college.

“If Mr O’Halloran thinks that €3,000 tuition fees are too cheap, then maybe he needs to live the experiences of struggling students and away from his bubble. We have the highest tuition fees in the EU. The President should actively be encouraging and pressurising the Government into funding third level institutions and not use students as cash cows.”

“I rely on the SUSI grant and my parents to get me through college, I was an attendant of a
DEIS school… Time for the President to stop sitting on the fence with his +€100,000 salary per year, and listen to the struggling students,”Uzun concluded.

One UCC alumnus said, “His comments were so out touch with the reality many students are facing. I know people who were struggling while on Susi and the student assistant fund. It’s a slap in the face to students who are fighting to stay in college with the costs, and reeks of classism.”

Another UCC alumnus, Dani McCabe, stated “My response to President John O’Halloran’s comments is that cheaper than does not mean affordable. I had a job throughout college that I would often need to choose to work extra hours rather than go to lectures because I had bills to pay, books to buy, travel to pay for, course materials to source. In final year I was denied SUSI because although estranged from my family, I was under 23 when I started college so assessed under my mother’s income.”

“I had to take a loan out to pay for my fees and work extra shifts whenever I could to complete the year. University may be less fees than a private schools, but is it not more affordable. Private schools do not carry the costs outside of the fees. This comment shows a President who is very out of touch with its students’ experiences.
Reflective of a very insulated and secure place in life. When a student in Ireland, couldn’t be more different”.

Meanwhile, the University of Limerick’s president, Professor Kersten May, said that when Ireland is compared to other European Countries, “Ireland has the highest rate of student contribution”. She also said that the “State needs to invest in education and research”.

Christine O’Mahony

Image Credit: UCC