The “study now — pay later” model received backing from 37% of respondents in theICMSA poll, although 42% said they disagreed with the plan.
It is one of three proposals under consideration for boosting funding to the third-level sector, amid growing concerns about matching future demand while maintaining quality and slippage in international rankings.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has already come out against the model, proposed in the Cassells report on funding for higher education, claiming access to a free education was essential.
However, the poll results show support for the proposal is most pronounced among younger respondents: 46% of those 34 and under back the proposal, as do 42% of those aged between 35 and 44. Men were also slightly more in favour of the plan, as were those families with an off-farm income.
The Cassells report, published in July, outlined three options to cover the €1bn required for the third-level sector over the next 15 years, so as to accommodate population changes. The USI has stressed the need for additional resources for third level. All Ireland’s universities bar one slipped down the latest QS World University rankings — a situation which the USI said was caused by budget cuts over a number of years.
USI president Annie Hoey, who grew up in a farming family, said a “study now — pay later” model may have a “catchy title”, but it was not the only option contained in the Cassells report and there was an element of “fear-mongering” surrounding it.
On the poll findings, she said she was not “overly surprised” that more farming families were opposed to the proposal than in favour of it.