Degree students at UCC can apply for a new loan scheme offering low interest rates to help pay the €2,250 student contribution fee.
In a deal similar to those arranged with other colleges, Bank of Ireland will pay the charge for students and families can pay back just €100 per month for the duration of study at a 5.1% interest rate. The rates will increase after completion of the course.
The scheme was welcomed by UCC Students’ Union welfare officer Dave Carey, but the Union of Students in Ireland has said such loans will give the Government an excuse to increases fees more and sooner.
Almost 60% of undergraduate students nationally are liable for the student contribution, as they do not qualify for grant supports.
Announcing the scheme at UCC, the university’s deputy president Professor Caroline Fennell said it recognised that the payment of the charge can be a challenge for many families. Similar arrangements have already been unveiled at a number of third-level institutions, including Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, and Dublin City University.
The latest loan initiative for undergraduate students comes a day after BoI and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn announced a scheme to lend course fees to postgraduate students at more than 30 publicly funded colleges.
It was developed by the bank in conjunction with the National Treasury Management Agency and the Department of Education, which is no longer paying maintenance grants for new entrants to postgraduate courses.
About 3,600 of last year’s 22,000 postgraduate students qualified for free fees and grants but Sinn Féin education spokesman Sean Crowe said the 10.8% interest rate that will apply to repayments after completion of courses was unjustified. He said a government-
backed scheme in Britain charges just 1.5% and most students who access the loans here will be burdened with years of debt.
“I believe this scheme will become a long-term alternative that is designed to replace central government funding and allow the reintroduction of third-level fees for undergraduate courses,” said MR Crowe.
He agreed with the USI’s view that the postgraduate loan would be of limited value as many students were already heavily overdrawn or struggling to pay back earlier loans to undertake earlier degrees.
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