Is student loan scheme a non-runner?

 

A chara, – I have read Dr Aeidín Doris’s views on an income-contingent loan scheme for graduates, as quoted in an article on funding third-level education (“Student loan scheme would ‘not hinder access’ to college among poorer students” , May 2nd).

The key point Dr Doris makes is that with an income-contingent loan scheme, “the costs to the taxpayer are substantially lower since the burden is shared with graduates”. Are graduates not taxpayers too? They already share the benefits, if any, of increased salaries due to their third-level education through the existing tax system. Migration of graduates is a two-way process. We benefit from the taxes paid by those thousands of graduates who have come to Ireland and whose education has been paid for by other countries. Loan systems are a barrier and a burden. – Is mise,

KAY MacKEOGH,

Maynooth,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – We have been campaigning to ensure that income-contingent loans are not an option for this country or the higher-education sector in Ireland.

Having a fee of €16,000 or €20,000 for a degree is such an exorbitant increase over what we paid for a four-year degree in 2011 (€6000). The Government must recognise the burden has shifted to students and institutions. In addition, our grants have not increased, while accommodation and living costs soar. Our institutes are close to closing the doors, while in our universities, we face increased student levy proposals and cuts.

We contribute to our education, and many students go without food due to the high cost of this.

A loan system is only an ideological move; we fund many other schemes by general taxation. In addition, there is no evidence from anywhere in the world that income-contingent loans improve access to higher education. Evidence internationally shows quite clearly that once higher fees and income-contingent loans are introduced, the state contribution rapidly decreases and the fees and subsequent repayments go up.

We need to address the entire system, not just fees. It is a sad state of affairs to conclude that our citizens should be in debt from the age of 18 onwards simply because they chose to continue on with their education. We need an accommodation trust that does not rip-off students. We need to identify what true maintenance costs of going to college are, and we need to fix our apprenticeship sector. Let us do that before consigning the students of tomorrow to debt. Debt which affects their ability to have a family, to buy a house, and to progress in life, as evidence is showing from other countries with such a loan scheme.

The Cassells report outlined three options for investment into higher education. The income-contingent loan option has been widely reported. Two other options – a €3,000 fee with increased financial investment, and publicly funded education – have not been assessed in any great detail by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills. We ask that these two models be stress-tested and presented by experts to the committee. We have not investigated fully any other models, such as the Netherlands or German models.

Many of the advocates for higher fees and a loan scheme are not speaking on behalf of students. We represent students from across Ireland and across society. We speak with a united voice when we say our members do not want to be burdened with a lifetime of debt, and they do not want to be punished for pursuing their education.

We believe passionately that our education should be thoroughly protected.

When Government speaks of a recovery, let students be a part of it. – Yours, etc,

AARON LAWLESS,

Dundalk Institute

of Technology

Students’ Union;

ALICE HARTIGAN,

Dún Laoghaire Institute

of Art, Design

and Technology

Students’ Union;

AMY KELLY,

Galway-Mayo

Institute of Technology

Students’ Union;

ADAM CLARKE,

Carlow College

Students’ Union;

BONI ODOEMENE, DIT Students’ Union;

CAOIMHE GUINNANE, LIT Students’ Union;

CILLIN FOLAN, IT Sligo Students’ Union;

CONOR DEMPSEY, IT Blanchardstown Students’ Union;

DILLON GRACE, Maynooth University Students’ Union;

DYLAN McGOWAN, LyIT Students’ Union;

EOLANN SHEEHAN, UCC Students’ Union;

JESSICA WALL, IT Tallaght Students’ Union;

JIMMY McGOVERN, NUI Galway Students’ Union;

KEVIN RONAN, AIT Students’ Union;

KIERAN McNULTY, TCD Students’ Union;

LORNA FITZPATRICK, IT Carlow Students’ Union;

MICHELLE BYRNE, WIT Students’ Union;

SHANE FALVEY, CIT Students’ Union;

STEPHEN CLEARY, NCI Students’ Union;

STEVE CLIFFORD, IT Tralee Students’ Union;

YVONNE HYNES, STACS Students’ Union;

ANNIE HOEY,

Union of Students in Ireland,

Ceann Áras na Mac Léinn,

Portview House,

York Road, Dublin 4.