independent

Saturday 20 September 2014

No such thing as free education

Published 06/09/2011 | 09:19

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DID YOU ever think we had free education in Ireland? Well did you? The bitter truth is that there is no such thing, it simply doesn't exist.

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We are paying for our children's education right from national school to Third Level and all the indications are that we are going to be paying a lot more in the future. While there may be no ' official' bills when our offspring first go to national schools, in many cases there are uniforms to and books to buy, never mind the cost of transport if you are unlucky enough to live anything more than a walk to school. Move on to senior schools are the costs accelerate, school trips, voluntary contributions - voluntary in name only because parents who fail to pay will no doubt receive constant reminders about how the schools needs the money more than they do. By the time Third Level is in the horizon you better hope you have a friendly bank manager, but is there any such thing? Registration fees have soared to €2,000 and are due to rise again next year. At the same time Ruairi Quinn has refused to countenance a government-backed scheme which would see students get loans to cover the cost of their tuition, the loans only repaid when the students become productive members of our society and have the ability to repay. Perhaps someone can explain why this is the case. This works in other countries, why not in Ireland? If the government can't afford to fund our universities, why should we be asked to? Sorry I forgot, but isn't that what we pay taxes for? Talking about taxes, did you know there is a new government tax on PLC courses of €200? Where does this go and how is it spent, given that many courses are funded by the European Social Fund. Another added cost is that of examination fees, such as those recently increased by FETAC, the national certifying body for most PLC courses. Another huge cost for families who live outside the main university and third level catchments is that of accommodation, which even for a modest room in a shared house will be at least €350 a month in Dublin, and that's before you buy a book. One of the reasons our children often have to travel is often the lack of third level closer to home. All these costs are falling on the shoulders of overburdened parents already hit by reduced incomes, levies on their salaries and increases in income tax. Parents almost always put their children's education first when it comes to deciding priorities, forgoing their own needs in order to able to meet the burgeoning costs of their children's education. This is an untenable situation and civil servants need to put on their well-paid thinking caps to come up with solutions because this is a problem that is only going to get worse as the gap between what parents are being asked for and what they can give widens as we try to provide the education our children deserve and at a cost we can afford, as families and as a nation.

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