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Wednesday 29 March 2017

Concern over back-door fees as name change urged

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

THE Government has been told to start calling the controversial student registration fee a "student charge" because of the "confusion" surrounding it.

A Higher Education Authority (HEA) report to Education Minister Mary Coughlan, seen by The Irish Independent, claims the registration fee should now be referred to as a "student charge".

The fee, which was introduced following the abolition of third-level fees in 1996, has since undergone a 780pc hike.

The Union of Students of Ireland (USI) believes the increases are "third-level fees by the back door". And last night the USI warned a "name change" could be a "clever way" for Fianna Fail to hike the "student charge" again.

The fee has risen from €190 to €1,500, following a 67pc hike in 2009 alone.

It is designed to offset the costs of exams, student services and registration fees. But colleges have conceded it is being used for other services because of cuts in funding.

Under the recently renegotiated Programme for Government, the reintroduction of third-level fees has been ruled out.

But colleges are crying out for increased funding from the Government.

The HEA report stops short of broadening the purpose of the fee or arguing the case for increasing it again.

It does say, however, that the range of services covered by the charge will need to be "kept continually under review and revised as necessary".

Last night, the Green Party's education spokesman Paul Gogarty said if the areas covered were increased, this could invite another cost increase.

"And that essentially would be fees by the back door," he said.

The HEA's report notes that the average cost of educating a full-time undergraduate student is about €10,000 per annum.

Irish Independent

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