The Government is about to add to its woes as a student fees loan scheme proposal is set to take centre stage in a new third-level funding debate.
With the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) firmly opposed to any increased costs and a finely balanced Dáil, the proposal in a report being launched by Education Minister Richard Bruton is sure to become a new political headache.
It is one of several options to bridge severe gaps in higher education funding but the ‘study now-pay later’ system is favoured by many key players in the sector.
Budgets for publicly funded colleges have been cut by nearly one-third since 2008, while student numbers have risen by 15% and staffing has fallen by 12%.
Other solutions, which could also be introduced alongside higher student fees, are hiking general taxation or employer’s PRSI to fund improved progress to higher education.
In an effort to secure public support for any new or higher costs, Mr Bruton will propose new targets for third-level colleges on social access, meeting workplace skills shortages and catering for more part-time and online learners.
The report will be thrashed out by the Oireachtas Education Committee before the Government considers any policy decisions.
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