Thomas Pringle, TD (Ind) questioning the Minister for Education on third level fees
A Donegal TD has called on the Minister for Education not to introduce third level student loans.
Thomas Pringle (Ind) raised Pringle raised the issue as a Priority Question in the Dáil. He was responding to recommendations in the the Cashell’s Report for increased investment in third level education sector, including the possible introduction of ‘income-contingent’ student loans.
Deputy Pringle said,“While I agree that urgent investment is needed in the sector, what was very worrying was that the report outlined on option of introducing ‘income-contingent’ student loans, where students pay back the loan relative to their level of income.
“The report also made the case for other options, including a predominantly State-funded system or a State-funded system alongside existing fees. I believe fees should be completely removed and that increased investment should come from general taxation.
“Existing fees are already a barrier for many, especially for students travelling from rural areas. Many students from Donegal and their families are not just burdened with existing fees but also with rent and living costs if they need to live closer to their college/university. I’ve been in touch with students from LYIT and this is the common experience for many."
He continued, saying he would not accept any form of "privitisation" of third level education.
“We cannot treat education as a business but Fine Gael has allowed for creeping privatisation of various sectors so far and I fear we can expect the same for the education sector if we allow them to get away with it.
Repayment of loans, Deputy Pringle emphasised, is also problematic. “Studies show that student loans introduced in the US and the UK have led to high rates of non-payment. In the UK, where ‘income-contingent’ student loans were introduced a number of years ago, estimates of non-payment of student debts have reached £86 billion pounds, with £12 billion accumulated last year alone.
“Clearly, this model is unsustainable. Graduates also earn more and therefore contribute more in general taxation, so really we should be reducing any barriers in the third level sector, as this would make more financial sense than building a system based on debt. "
Deputy Pringle concluded by saying that education should be accessible to all.
“Ultimately, education should be seen as a right for everyone. This is the only way we can help reduce social inequalities in our society. My ‘Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' Bill seeks to enshrine the right of education to all in the Constitution and I hope to have the opportunity to introduce it to the Dáil soon.
“Work on the Government’s review into these options is due to conclude in April. I have urged the Minister to reconsider the option of ‘income-contingent’ student loans in light of the financial restraints students already face entering third level education in Ireland."