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back to college

Reduction in college fees and increase in students grants under consideration for Budget

Minister Simon Harris says it is important that all of the levers available to reduce costs for students.

A 25% INCREASE in student grants and a reduction in third-level fees are among the measures being considered as part of the budget.

The Department of Higher Education has costed a number of significant changes to the student grants scheme including amending the income thresholds. 

The annual options paper on reducing the cost of higher education will be published today by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris.

It contains measures that aim to reduce the financial burden of going to college on families and students.

The options contained in the paper include:

  • reducing the student contribution
  • increasing the number of students in receipt of a student grant
  • increasing the rates of student grant
  • other measures that will reduce the financial burden of going to college on families and students.

Currently students pay a student contribution of around €3,000 per annum. 

There are two options being considered by government to further reduce student contribution costs for undergraduate students, including a flat reduction in the student contribution rate or an increase to student grant funding by adjusting the income threshold and/or the grant value for the new €500 student contribution grant.

Reducing the student contribution by between €100 and €500 would cost the Exchequer between €9.2m and €46m. 

Budget 2023 increased the income threshold for the 50% student contribution grant from €55k-62k. In addition a new €500 student contribution grant was introduced for eligible applicants whose reckonable incomes were between €62-100k.

The report recommends that income thresholds be reviewed annually going forward. 

Options are also being considered to reduce apprenticeship fees and the costs for medical students. 

Student accommodation

The Department is also examining a range of measures to assist students with the cost of
accommodation.

The options paper states that the level of rent being charged in the private rental sector “is a significant barrier to higher education for the priority access cohort of socio economically disadvantaged Irish students”.

The report paints a stark picture of the challenges facing the delivery of student accommodation, stating that construction inflation has resulted in bids being submitted at significantly higher than the pre-tender estimate and contractors not standing over tendered bids.

The options paper states that projects have been postponed or cancelled due to the high costs of building and these factors are having a significant impact on the supply and affordability of new rental accommodation for higher education students. 

The construction price for student accommodation in the greater Dublin area is currently estimated at in excess of €200,000 for a single room en-suite, the report claims. 

“This has had a significant impact on new supply both within the public University sector and private PBSA sector with over 12,500 units currently with planning permission not being activated,” its authors say. 

Along with a new policy to provide state assistance to stimulate the development of new and additional student accommodation for public higher education institutions, which was announced last year, options under consideration include creating an Emergency Student Accommodation Fund for Student Unions at a cost of €440,000 that could assist students in crisis.

A special bursary for Traveller and Roma students is also under consideration that would see support of €6,000 per annum for 66 targeted students.

The Student Accommodation Unit of the Department has made an initial internal application for consideration under the Dormant Accounts Fund. 

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