USI to hold protests over student fees

The Union of Students Ireland (USI) will hold a national day of protest today to put pressure on the Government to find a long-term, publicly financed solution to third-level education funding.

USI president Annie Hoey

Up to 5,000 students are expected to take part in the protest which is scheduled to take place at 1pm at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin’s city centre.

It is supported by the Coalition for Publicly Funded Higher Level Education, which includes USI, Siptu, Impact, the Teacher’s Union of Ireland, and the National Youth Council of Ireland.

Protesters will urge the Government to avoid increases to fees and the introduction of a student loans system. In July, the Cassells report said the third-level sector needed an investment of €600m by 2020 and €1bn by 2031 to cope with expanding student numbers, funding costs, and shortfalls.

The proportion attending third-level education is estimated to reach 30% by 2026.

Meanwhile, funding to the wider third-level education sector has fallen from €1.4bn in 2007 to €860m this year.

Three solutions have been proposed in the Cassells report.

First,a cautious approach of retaining the annual €3,000 fee, with the state’s contribution of 64% of annual costs raised to 72%.

Secondly, switching to a publicly-funded model, abolishing the €3,000 fee and increasing the Government contribution to 80%. The amount paid by the State is far below the EU average of 79%.

The third option by Cassells, the “study now, pay later” loan model involving hiking annual fees to €4,000 to €5,000, has been heavily criticised by student leaders.

“The loan scheme option put forward in the Cassells report is unsustainable. It will increase emigration, saddle young people with a mortgage-modeled debt, and widen the gap between the rich and the poor,” said USI president Annie Hoey.

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