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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Third Level Education
No date yet for promised cut to student contribution fee, Harris says
The Higher Education Minister said the Government is firmly against “unfair” student loans.

LAST UPDATE | May 4th 2022, 1:32 PM

THERE IS NOT yet a clear date for when the Government will cut the student contribution fee, the Higher Education Minister has said.

Simon Harris was speaking this morning ahead of unveiling €307 million of extra funding for colleges and universities, following years of debate and discussion about a new funding arrangement for the sector.

Harris reiterated his belief that the €3,000 student contribution charge is an “austerity-era” measure, and that it needs to be cut to alleviate financial pressure on students and their families.

But while he was adamant that student loans are “off the table” for the Government, he was not able to say when students will see the contribution charge cut.

The minister told reporters today that it would be a Budget decision for October. 

While measures in the Budget generally kick in the following year, sources state that fee reductions, and possible refunds, could be introduced after Budget day. 

  • The Noteworthy team wants to investigate how rising costs are a barrier to third-level education in Ireland. Support this project here.

Harris said the €307 million will be spent over the coming years.

“We will spend about €2,000 more per student in college each year,” he said. “So it’s an investment of about €2,000 more in your education.

“We’re going to invest more, though, to change the system.

“We want to see more lecturers in our colleges, we want to see a better ratio between students and lecturers. We want to fund our education system to an equivalent level across the European Union.”

He said the Cabinet yesterday agreed to a number of measures designed to cushion students from the cost of college in the coming years.

“I’m delighted to say that yesterday the Government agreed that every year in advance of the Budget, I, and in due course my successors, will publish a paper showing how we can reduce the cost of education for working families.”

Harris said the options are either improving the grant system, reducing fees, or a combination of both.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Harris declined to provide specific details about a mooted cut to the student contribution fee.

“I think it is just at a level that is of an austerity era,” he said.

While not giving specifics, he pledged action will be taken for students in the upcoming Budget.

“What there will be in the October Budget is a package to support students,” Harris said. “We’ll look at both the grants and the fees.

Let me be really clear in case anybody thinks I’m in any way ambiguous on this: I believe that the €3,000 registration fee is too high. I believe it needs to come down. I’ve said that many times.

The minister told reporters today that Government accepts that the cost of higher education is high and needs to come down.

From now on, starting with the Budget in October, the minister said the voice of students and parents voice will be on the table in terms of how to reduce costs. 

While he said no minister can give a specific commitment in advance the Budget but did make reference to how the Government are committed to reducing the cost of living for families. 

Government have repeatedly stated that they are limited in the roll out of further measures to help with inflation, but one area is the reduction of costs and fees the State control. 

Putting money back into the pockets of students and parents will also help with accommodation costs, acknowledged the minister. 

“The two policy levers we have directly in our department are grants and fee levels. So I think that is the quickest way of helping families with the cost of living of which accommodation and rent is obviously a major part,” he said.

Two measures have already been taken, said the minister, who added that students can no only be asked for a deposit and one months rent up front when seeking accomodation and can no longer be asked to provide six or seven months rent up front. The notice period students have to give when vacating accommodation has also been reduced, said Harris. 

“I’ve written to every university and college in Ireland and said any local solutions that you have, if you can identify buildings that can be used, we will support you with that, obviously that’s a part of the Ukraine effort as well,” he said.

The Student Assistance Fund, a fund that students can draw down on when they fall on hard times, has also been increased, he added.

Increasing grants and reducing fees is the “quickest way we’re trying to help students” with the cost of living, said Harris.  

He rejected any suggestion of introducing a student loan scheme.

“The Government agreed yesterday and made a formal decision that student loans are off the table, that they’re not equitable.

“They burden young people with more debt when they leave college at a time they’re trying to meet lots of other pressures in life. They’re not fair, and, quite frankly, they also don’t work.”

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