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Student body hit out over use of debt collectors in colleges

The response from the USI comes after a tender by UCD for the “collection of outstanding monies”.

THE USI HAVE condemned the current and proposed future use of debt collectors in Irish universities.

Responding to the use of ‘external mechanisms’ by the University of Limerick (UL) to recover long standing debts, the condemnation comes less than a week after University College Dublin (UCD) issued a tender for “professional services relating to collection of outstanding monies”.

The President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), John Logue, said that those employed to recoup costs were put in place by colleges to “intimidate students into coughing up money they simply do not have.”

Outlining their current use of “debt collection practices”, a spokesperson from UL said that the college, as a public body, had “a duty to seek to recover outstanding debts” and that it only used “external mechanisms as a last resort in recovering long standing debts”.

The university representative said that UL do not issue legal proceedings over outstanding student fees, however.

A representative from UCD was not available to answer questions in relation to their current tender before this article was published.

Call for condemnation

Logue called the recent increase in college fees ‘dramatic’, and said that their continued rise (college fees are set to be €2,500 from this September) had seen “far too many students drop out of college.” He added:

USI calls on the Minister to condemn this practice and to urgently work towards a solution that will provide relief for students in arrears. This issue has arisen as a direct result of his decision to increase fees and cut the maintenance grant. The Minister owes them some clemency.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education told TheJournal.ie that higher education institutions were “autonomous bodies” and that the department had no role in their day-to-day operational affairs.

Despite this, the department said that it did “hope that institutions deal with students in a sensitive and understanding manner in relation to the payment of any outstanding arrears.”

The spokesperson added that the Higher Education Authority had requested institutions to allow students to pay their current contribution over two instalments throughout the year, in order to help “spread the financial costs”.

Read: Ireland launches ‘radical’ new university rankings system >

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Paul Hyland

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