AN INCREASE of €600 in the Student Registration fee has been condemned by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).
The increase, which will see fees raising from €900 to €1500 in the 2009/2010 academic year, was annouced as part of the Government budget on 14th October.
Expressing his disapproval of the increase, USI President, Shane Kelly described the move as “a very cynical and short sighted approach to fixing a very long term funding problem”.
Accusing the Government of raising finances in a “cynical and callous way”, Mr Kelly explained that “what we see now is the cost of college getting much more expensive while the supports being offered to those already struggling are getting smaller and smaller due to inflation”.
He explained the students “weren’t surprised… [but]saddened” by the news, arguing that the increase would add to the financial burden inflicted on students. He highlighted those coming from low and mid-income families would be the most affected by the increase because “there was no provision made in the Budget at all for any increase in the student maintenance grant”.
Mr Kelly continued to question where the additional funding would be invested, stating that he fears the finance gained by the increase will be invested back into the state, claiming that there had been “absolutely no indication… (that) the increase in student registration money will got anywhere near students services”.
Vice-President for Students, Dr Martin Butler echoed these sentiments explaining that he was unsure of the final figure that the university would receive from the €600 increase. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, will we get the balance between the €900 and the €1600… will it become part of the student charge, and can it then be used to enhance the student experience. I don’t know that”.
Adamant that students should be accepted by universities based on merit and not on their finances, Mr Kelly explained that “it is our position… that the only barometer for getting into third level education should be potential… that should be the yardstick by which you are measured…. not how much money your parents have in their bank account (and) not how much money you have in your pocket”.
Mr Kelly further added that he felt “quite comfortable” to hold Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe accountable for the increase and criticised him describing the fees increase as a total contradiction to his former statements. “For all his laudable talk of the last six months… that only those who can afford to pay will pay, he has completely done a U-turn on that”.
The issue of the possible re-introduction of third-level fees has been contentious over recent months. University officials have also reacted angrily to Minister O’Keeffe’s decision to introduce cuts to a €97 million access and innovations programme and to his implementation of a spending pause in the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The SIF aimed to boost teaching standards and encourage universities to modernise their facilities and was promoted by the Department of Education.