Students 'misled' by Quinn on return of fees
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has been accused of misleading young people by back-tracking on an election pledge not to reintroduce college fees.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) warned Mr Quinn that he would end the dream of college for thousands of young people if there was a return to fees.
The Irish Independent revealed yesterday that Mr Quinn has ruled out a student loan deal to help meet the burgeoning cost of the higher education system, saying it would take too long to become self-financing.
This means that a return of fees is the only realistic way of raising the extra €500m a year the system will need by 2020.
USI president Gary Redmond said that in the current economic climate parents were already struggling to keep their sons and daughters in college and he called on Mr Quinn to honour a pledge he signed during the general election campaign opposing any new fees.
"Young people turned out in unprecedented numbers to vote in the recent general election. Many of these young people were influenced in their decision by the Labour Party's commitment, championed by Ruairi Quinn, not to increase third-level fees in any form.
"Any deviation from this stance by the Government equates to a gross misleading of young people and their families by the Labour Party.
"The Government should work to encourage people to participate in higher education rather than close the door on them by increasing college fees," he added.
The USI said students already paid €2,000 a year for the student contribution and estimated they spend another €7,700 on top of that for living costs.
It said the recent €500 increase in the student contribution and "savage cutting" of maintenance grants had already led to young people dropping out of college. It warned that any further increase in the cost of third-level education would force more people on to the dole or to emigrate.
Mr Redmond said the timing of Mr Quinn's announcement had put unnecessary stress on parents and 55,000 Leaving Cert students as they awaited their results this morning.
However, a spokeswoman for Mr Quinn said no decision had been made to bring back third-level fees.