Publicly funded education is the best option to keep social mobility on a level playing field

The Cassells report proposed three different options to the higher education funding issues. The option given the most attention, both in the media and in the report itself, is the proposed loan scheme, writes Annie Hoey

Probably because it’s different, terrifying, and brings more problems than it solves.

While the loan scheme is indeed an impractical proposal, it’s important for us to also look at positive options, like the publicly funded higher education option, and entertain real solutions.

The three main solutions suggested for funding third-level education in Ireland include a publicly funded higher education system, which includes abolishing the current registration fee, with an increase in funding from State coffers and increased contribution made by employers; maintaining the status quo with increased State investment to compliment the shortfall in higher education funding; or a deferred payment loan scheme.

USI believes publicly funded education is the best option to keep social mobility on a level playing field, strengthening the economy, reducing minimum subsistence levels, and decreasing breadline anxieties.

Free, accessible education is absolutely vital to practising reasoning against the illogical; keeping up with scientific, medical, technical, and cultural evolution; independent and critical thinking; healthier lifestyles and living; advanced techniques for improved productivity; and challenging ethics and practises to promote peace at home and abroad.

An educated mind makes an empowered individual and it is our goal to empower those hungry for growth, knowledge, and development through education. It needs to be accessible. It doesn’t matter how they present it, a loan scheme is still a loan scheme and still has the major problems associated with loan schemes, such as widening the gap between the rich and poor, graduate emigration, and social regression.

Our generation is the first that will be less well-off than our parents — how can we possibly progress with student loan schemes becoming the norm for young people? What bank would give a mortgage to a young couple or professional already owing tens of thousands, up to their eyes in debt because of the cost of education?

Publicly funded free education in Ireland will be the biggest driving force behind strengthening our country and empowering the youth. The Taoiseach keeps telling us we have the fastest growing economy in Europe. If we want to retain that pace, we need to make sure our workforce is up to speed with being at the forefront of this economy.

USI is calling on Education Minister Richard Bruton to take the publicly funded higher education route which is open and accessible to all who wish to avail of it.

Annie Hoey is president of the Union of Students of Ireland

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