'Study now, pay later' on cards for third-level fees
Higher third-level fees funded through a student-loan system is the frontrunner in options being considered by an expert group set up to advise the Government on financing the soaring cost of college education.
The group estimates that the current €2bn annual funding must rise by €1bn over the next decade if Ireland wants to deliver a quality education for the growing number of students.
But a key message is that everyone who benefits from higher education has to share the extra cost, effectively contributing more. The report pulls no punches about the "urgent need for a reformed funding system".
But in order to soften the blow for families, the group leans heavily towards a 'study now, pay later' system.
This means students would not pay fees up front, but would instead reimburse the State once their income hits a certain level following graduation.
The paper does not deal with actual fee levels, but in an era where everyone would be expected to pay more, a deferred payment scheme might be seen to smooth the way for increased student contributions.
The Expert Group on Future Funding of Higher Education has presented a paper for a "constructive and realistic discussion on the options". It will be considered at a meeting tomorrow of all the stakeholders in higher education.
It will be the final consultation before a report is drafted for Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan setting out options to tackle the funding crisis.