by Alan Jacques
FORMER Labour councillor Tom Shortt is calling on his party colleague Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan to reduce the €3,000 third level registration fee paid by families who do not qualify for third level grants.
Stating that the registration fee and maintenance costs are presenting enormous difficulties for middle-income PAYE workers, he is looking to have the fee reduced by €250 in budget 2015
Without a significant reduction, he believes that many families will not be able to finance the third level education of their children.
“In recent years as middle income PAYE families paid every new tax, charge and levy and struggled to pay mortgages, they found it difficult to save for education. They are driving old cars, do not go on holidays, and they borrow the fees and education costs from credit unions.
“Students from middle income families work their way through college, take on stressful student loans, where the repayments start immediately, and are exhausted working seven days a week, going from college to part-time, late night, weekend jobs in shopping centres,” he claimed.
He believes that the model of student support, including free fees, free accommodation and grant aid rolled out this week for one third level student, who is not an Irish citizen, presents difficulties, because “if one deserves this, then every student does”.
“During the lifetime of this government, as Labour held the Education portfolio, the registration fee has doubled from €1,500 in 2010 to €3,000 in 2015 and the situation now is in stark contrast to the position in 1995, 20 years ago, when a former Labour Minister, Niamh Bhreathnach, abolished fees entirely,” the former city councillor explained.
“Middle-income PAYE workers are fed up paying for everybody else’s third level education while finding it virtually impossible to pay for their own children’s education. He thinks fees should be abolished entirely and replaced with a graduate tax to facilitate equal access to education for everybody.
“The budget represents the final opportunity to tackle this problem during the lifetime of this government as middle income PAYE workers will be voting on the issue in the general election,” he said.
Minister O’Sullivan was unavailable for comment this week. However, a spokesperson said that the Minister is well aware of the pressures placed on families in trying to finance children in education and in that context a reduction in the current student grant fee will be considered as part of the Governments budget discussions.