With college numbers increasing, someone will have to pay
The problem hasn't gone away and nor will it. The bill for third-level education is rising and someone has to pay.
There are more and more people going to college and they all deserve a quality education. It costs. Who foots the bill? The ESRI is on the side of the students paying more, but at a pace that suits them.
The ERSI argues that a loan scheme could meet the needs of families who might be dissuaded from sending children to college because of the upfront cost. College must be affordable at the point of consumption, says the ESRI.
The study-now-pay-later approach gives everyone a fairer chance.
So, the good news is that the ESRI recommendation on a student-loan scheme would remove the upfront costs of going to college, or at least some of them.
The bad news is that the overall cost would be higher than it is now. A student-loan scheme would be unlikely to seek a full return of the economic cost of a degree –which averages at about €8,000 a year, and as much as €20,000 a year for medicine students.
But it could seek a return of, let's say €5,000 a year, compared with the current €2,250 annual student contribution charge. A four-year degree for the cost of a family saloon, and paid for in much the same way.
A student would leave college with a debt around his or her neck. Would it act as a further spur to emigration as a way of avoiding the repayment, as has been suggested?
There is no easy way of funding higher education, but it is a debate that needs to happen.