Leading student anti-cuts group Free Education for Everyone (FEE) has attacked Dublin City University’s decision to agree a student fees loan deal with the Bank of Ireland, the third such Irish Third Level body to do so. A further 15 third level institutions are set to also embrace similar loan schemes, with Dublin Institute of Technology expected to announce its involvement later next week. The loan system, which shall be paid directly to the Third Level institutions involved, will be ineligible for students to apply for themselves, though they will incur the debt the moment they graduate. Repayments are to be set at €100 per month, with a variable interest rate of 5.1 per cent set to rise to 9.7 per cent once a student graduates.
NUI Galway Postgraduate History student Gerard Madden said: ‘This represents yet another example of the neo-liberal assault on Irish education, with corporate interests yet again infringing on Third Level in a wholly disastrous fashion for students. After the well-chronicled problems with the student loan system in the US and elsewhere, with the number of people who are simply unable to repay rising constantly, it boggles the mind that a representative of student interests like DCU Student Union President Paul Doherty can believe a system which ladens students with debt will ‘ease the financial strain on many students and their families’. Third level institutions are not corporate entities but providers of a social good which should be attainable by academic merit and not by the financial means of one’s parents, and embracing progressive taxation as the model to fund Third Level is the best way of achieving this’.
Further to this, such a scheme now permits the Government to raise fees to whatever figure it sees fit with an assurance to parents that these crippling loans will cover any hike they decide to introduce. This scheme flies in the face of both official Government policy, maintaining the registration fee, and the recently re-confirmed stance of the Union of Students in Ireland, which is to fight for free education.
Free Education For Everyone is a nationwide grassroots campaign dedicated to fighting cutbacks to all levels of the education system as part of the wider campaign against austerity and the policies of the Troika. Recent actions by the group include participation in the protests at the Labour Party conference in NUI Galway last April and the occupation of FG Deputy Eoghan Murphy’s office in Ranelagh, Dublin, last December.