Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Student fee hike 'will hit numbers'

Green Party leader John Gormley says he has been working to protect education spending

Thousands of students will be forced to drop out of college and emigrate if registration fees soared to 2,000 euro as proposed in the four-year rescue plan, it has been claimed.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) criticised the Government's hypocrisy in claiming to invest in education while hitting them with a double whammy, which included a crippling cuts to the grant.

USI president Gary Redmond said: "The proposals in the four year plan to dramatically increase student fees will force thousands of students to drop out of college, as many of them are already struggling to pay 1,500 euro, and will only serve to put the final nail in the coffin of the smart economy. Without an educated workforce, this country will become an economic wasteland."

John Gormley, leader of the junior coalition Green Party, earlier maintained his emphasis had been on safeguarding education spending to protect the needs of a rising generation.

However, Mr Redmond revealed that for the first time in the history of the State nearly half of all students are reliant on the student maintenance grant to fund their third level education.

Many from lower socio-economic backgrounds who hold down part-time jobs also face a cut in the minimum wage. "An increased student fee will deny thousands of students the opportunity of a third level education and consign many of them to unemployment and emigration," he added.

Youth Work Ireland said a new 200 euro registration fee for vocational Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses is proof Government has little interest in training and educating young people through the recession.

Spokesman Michael Mc Loughlin said PLC's play a crucial role in giving opportunities to students who do not attend third level institutions. "Many young people who take up PLC courses are from disadvantaged backgrounds, the Government should be supporting young people to take up education and training places not penalising them," he said.

Michael Moriarty, of the Irish Vocational Education Association (IVEA), called on Government not to apply a registration fee to PLC students as many come from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

He said: "PLC programmes are programmes designed to re-skill and up-skill many who have lost their jobs. While one arm of government promotes incentivisation schemes and getting people back to work, another arm of government is imposing financial fees on education and training."

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