Paying for third-level education

 

Sir, – There has been much speculation regarding the introduction of third-level fees, with the former coalition parties being particularly coy on the matter. This is a sure sign that it is actively being considered and will be sprung on the electorate, assuming re-election.

I might remind your readers that we already have a third-level fee of €3,000, a not inconsiderable sum for many hard-pressed families. It is quaintly called an entrance fee, which might lead some to think it is a once-off payment to enter your preferred degree course. It is not. It is an annual fee for the duration of your time at university. What’s more, it has increased by 20 per cent in the last two years. So what is being planned? A further increase of up to 50 per cent? Or maybe a 100 per cent increase, with an as-yet-unexplained loan system.

With some 70,000 third-level students at our universities, it is a significant issue for many families, particularly those with more than one student in the system.

It is also a key issue in attracting inward investment. It is already apparent that we have skill shortages in many strategic industries.

Perhaps it is time for government to rethink its approach. Perhaps it should offer incentives to students to enter specific disciplines that are key to our inward-investment strategy. A one-size-fits-all approach to finance that puts pressure on families and students and ignores specific skill deficiencies will not work.

This issue is key to our continued economic recovery, so let’s have an informed and open debate and a real forward-thinking solution, for once. – Yours, etc,

DEREK Mac HUGH,

Bray, Co Wicklow.