THE president of a university that hired debt collectors to recoup unpaid fees does not know how much it is owed.
However, UL president Don Barry said yesterday that he did not know how much was owed.
The majority of those who have received correspondence from the collection agency did not complete their courses and left without a degree.
Some graduates, though, left owing money to the university, where the annual student contribution fee is €2,250 and will rise to €3,000 by 2015.
"I don't know the precise amount outstanding," said Mr Barry. "The university wouldn't release it so I am going to have to find out myself."
He admitted that the collection of fees by an agency was "a last resort".
"We try our best to facilitate students for as long as possible," he said. "We are caught between a rock and a hard place in that we have an obligation to collect this charge and the Government deducts it from our grants."
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) condemned the use of debt collectors.
USI president John Logue said they served one purpose, to intimidate students into paying money they do not have.
"The dramatic increases in college fees in recent years has seen far too many students drop out of college," he said.
"Their prospects have taken a hit from not graduating, yet these universities are demonstrating gross insensitivity by employing debt collectors when they should be working with the students to come to a more amicable arrangement."
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said it was a challenging time for universities, but she urged them to take the personal circumstances of each student into account.