Third-level fees will not address funding crisis - Labour


Reintroducing fees for third-level education is not the way to address the funding crisis in the sector, the Labour Party said today.

Education spokesman Ruairi Quinn accused Fianna Fáil of “cynically taking advantage” of the adverse situation in the public finances in order to bring back fees.

Mr O’Keeffe said yesterday the Cabinet would decide on a new system of college fees within the next two weeks, but that no new fees would be levied until September 2010. The Minister has yet to decide on the income threshold above which students and their families would be liable to pay fees.

“I take no comfort from claims by Minister O’Keeffe that fees will only by applied to those who can afford it,” Mr Quinn said.

He said once fees were reintroduced, the income barrier would “inevitably drop from one year to the other, until we arrive at a situation where all but those on the very lowest of incomes will have to pay fees”.

“People who enjoy a third level education end up earning higher incomes, and so pay more taxes. The greater the barrier to entry to third level, the fewer people will be able to afford it and the fewer people there will be in years to come qualified to fill those well paid jobs, higher up on the value chain, that we are supposed to be aiming at.”

Mr Quinn said he had no doubt there was a funding crisis at third level but that “slapping fees on families” was not the way to address it.

“The resources for our education system from junior infants to graduate school, should be sourced from the exchequer and should be funded by general taxation.”

Separately, the Young Greens called for the issue of third level funding to be considered by the newly established National Strategy on Higher Education Strategy group.

Chairman Barra Roantree said neither Fianna Fáil nor Fine Gael's proposals on funding would result in any income to the State for at least two years.

“Free tuition fees have improved access and participation in third level education as repeated studies have shown.”

He said the OECD had noted that Ireland had “the most equitable access to higher education” along with Spain.