Sunday 20 August 2017

'Higher tax alternative to student loans' says academic

Loans of about €5,000 a year, which graduates would repay after their income hit certain levels, are among the options being considered as a means of boosting funding for third level. Stock Image
Loans of about €5,000 a year, which graduates would repay after their income hit certain levels, are among the options being considered as a means of boosting funding for third level. Stock Image
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Higher taxes are the alternative to a student loan system, the Oireachtas education committee was told yesterday.

Dr Aedín Doris, of Maynooth University, who has written a paper on student loans, said if there was an acceptance that higher education needed more money, there was "no way to do it cheaply".

She was replying to comments made by committee chair and Fianna Fáil TD Fiona O'Loughlin, who told a hearing that no matter how it was done, there was a need to invest more in higher education.

"We have listened to leaders from the universities and institutes of technology and they are absolutely in crisis," said Ms O'Loughlin.

The committee, which is conducting a series of hearings into higher education funding, yesterday listened to two opposing sides in the student loan debate. Loans of about €5,000 a year, which graduates would repay after their income hit a certain levels, are among the options being considered as a means of boosting funding for third level.

Dr Doris said she would not favour a student loan scheme if she thought it would interfere with access to college, but there was no evidence that it would.

Independent senator Lynn Ruane expressed concern that well-off families would pay fees up front, while poor students would be left with debts.

Dr Darragh Flannery of the University of Limerick said evidence elsewhere was that the loans were better value than paying up front.

Dr Charles Larkin of Trinity College Dublin, who has co-authored a paper critical of income-contingent loans, said there was a danger that loan scheme would deter people from less well-off backgrounds, who tended to be risk averse. He said people were more risk averse since the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, applications to the CAO for college entry in the autumn are about the same as last year, at 80.345.

Newly-released figures take account of 4,259 late applications made before May 1, and compare with 80,323 at this time last year, while up from about 76,000 in May 2012.

The next phase in the CAO process is what is known as the Change of Mind period, which opens on Friday, when applicants have an opportunity to vary their course choices.

Although overall demand for a college place in 2017 is flat, when compared with 2016, swings in demand for different disciplines will impact on points required for certain courses.

This year has seen a bounce in interest for courses in business, construction and traditional professions such as law and architecture, while education and engineering/technology have seen a dip, although some applicants may change their mind before July 1.

Irish Independent

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