HARD-pressed students and families will be able to split the payment of the increased €2,000 college registration fee which comes into effect in September.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn recently reversed a pre-election commitment to maintain the charge at €1,500. But he has now asked colleges to allow the €2,000 to be paid in two instalments.
Mr Quinn has requested third-level institutions to allow €1,000 to be paid in September and the remaining €1,000 in January. He has written to all the higher education institutions and expects them to have the system in place in time for the new college year.
It comes after concern from parents -- particularly those with a number of children at college -- about the burden of the €500 increase.
The fee hike was first announced by the Fianna Fail/Green government.
Mr Quinn was criticised by the Union of Students in Ireland for committing to the €500 increase.
It asked the Dublin South East TD to honour Labour's pre-election pledge that the party would "oppose and campaign against any new form of third-level fees, including student loans, graduate taxes and any further increases".
A spokeswoman for the minister last night said: "The minister is conscious of the financial pressures this contribution may place on families. In order to alleviate this somewhat, provision has also been put in place, through the availability of tax reliefs, so that second and subsequent siblings will not have to bear the full increase.
"Based on current rates of relief, the effective cost of the student contribution charge, net of tax relief, for second and subsequent siblings will be €1,600 each."
Labour has also signalled college fees could be on the way back, with Mr Quinn and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton warning that the financial crisis in third-level education would have to be tackled.