FIVE REASONS TO OPPOSE COLLEGE FEES
1. Fees won't cut costs during the recession
The government has indicated its intention to introduce some sort of fees for third-level education, with the most likely model being a graduate tax, or a graduate loan system (as favoured by Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe). The timing of such proposals shows the government is attempting to quickly eliminate some state spending to balance the books.
Neither a graduate tax or graduate loan system will save the exchequer any significant monies for up to a decade. Even if graduates manage to find a job in Ireland, they will take years to repay the debt. Fees will not help us cut state spending during the recession.
2. Fess will increase government debt and emigration
The government is closely looking at Australia's graduate tax system, known as the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). This system is currently owed some $10billion (€5.8billion) by graduates who are unable to pay and chose to leave the country. The Australian government has admitted that up to 30% of this debt will never be repaid by graduates. New Zealand's loan system, with a population similar to Ireland's, has a collective debt of over €5billion after 20 years in operation.
With the economy likely to struggle for years to come, we are giving our graduates an incentive to emigrate and never come back. The choice for them will be to emigrate debt-free or stay and owe and average of €32,000. If graduates emigrate, which they are likely to, the government will have to pick up the cost.
3. Fees will be cheaper for the rich and dearer for the poor
Batt O'Keefe has hinted his support for a scheme whereby those who can afford to pay fees up-front rather than through a tax or loan system will get a significant discount on their fees. It has also been proposed that interest rates will be applicable to any loans system, increasing the debt even further for those who cannot pay fees up-front.
The system favoured by the Minister is unfair on those working families who are already struggling to make ends meet. The rich will pay far less for their education than those on ordinary incomes.
4. Fess will restrict access to third-level education
The government has signalled its intention to increase third-level participation rates to 72% by the year 2020, in order to create a knowledge economy workforce that can dig us out of recession. Forcing €32,000 of debt for a science or technology degree on potential students is no way to encourage participation, but instead is a recipe for a generation of emigration.
Secondary school students will be encouraged to not enter third-level education as they will face massive debts or graduate taxes. Families from lower-income backgrounds will be especially discouraged from taking on such debts.
5. Third-level education is already underfunded
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that in 2005 Ireland was spending 1.2% of our national income on third-level education, a decrease from 1.5% in the year 2000. They also found that our euro-for-euro spending was below the international average. As for the pitiful Student Grant, which is aimed at helping ordinary families send their children to college, it doesn't even cover the cost of rent in the main university towns.
The government is attempting to create a world-class third-level education system without funding it properly. Instead, it wants 18 year old Leaving Cert students to take on the funding issue and spend years repaying graduate loans or taxes.
HOW YOU CAN HELP US. . .
Your support is vital. You are the voters and the taxpayers, and the politicians are more likely to listen to you than students. Email or send letters to your local elected representatives, whether TD, Senator or Councillor and express your opposition to college fees. Let them know they won't be getting your vote if they are in favour of fees.
Watch out for our anti-fees campaigns on campus, and get involved in the protest marches we'll be organising during the next few weeks. We'll also be leafleting the city centre in the run-up to the Cabinet meeting on fees. Like your parents, you can email or send letters to your local elected representatives expressing your opposition to fees. Let them know they won't be getting your vote if they are in favour of fees.
For more info contact Emmet Connolly: Vice President- Education Officer