Sunday 22 September 2019

'Education is a right, not a privilege' - UCC students hit out as college capitation fees double

University College Cork
University College Cork

Callum Lavery

University College Cork (UCC) students have hit out as their college capitation fees will more than double in the next four years.

Each year, students must pay a capitation fee to cover the cost of things like membership of the Union of Students Ireland (USI) and recreational facilities and to cover the cost of counselling services.

The fee is currently priced at €170 and is charged on top the €3,000 student contribution charge paid each year. The capitation fee is not covered by the Higher Education SUSI grant.

The fee will rise to €250 for incoming students this year and will grow to €370 by 2023. Current students will not have to pay the increased rate.

In a statement the university's Students' Union said the price increase was "extremely disheartening."

"It is extremely disheartening to see more barriers being put in place to education," a spokesperson said.

"This is the second increase in the cost of attending college from UCC this year, following a 10pc increase to campus accommodation.

"When this increase was being discussed we argued that such an increase that has an impact on students should be brought to a student referendum, like it is in all other universities in the country.

"But the student voice was completely disregarded and is being ignored with the introduction of this increase.

"Education is a right, not a privilege."

Students in UCC previously voted to increase the fee by €5 last year, however according to the university, students were unable to vote on this price increase as the students affected were not yet in the university.

Outgoing Deputy President of UCC Students' Union, Kelly Coyle, believed a referendum still should have taken place.

"We put the fees up by €5 at the end of last year to cover things like common rooms and student media but that was done through a referendum and the students decided on it themselves.

"We wanted to let the students vote on this too. You vote on issues knowing that it will affect the people to come."

A spokesperson from UCC said the price hike was needed to cover the increased demand for the services supported by the fee.

"In recent years, UCC has seen increased pressure on the student services supported by the capitation fee.

"In particular mental health services, such as counselling and support, student health services, the student assistance fund and sport and recreations facilities, have all seen increased demand."

The college said the services supported by the capitation fee are not funded by the Government but will be used to directly fund student services on campus.

"UCC’s capitation fee has historically been among the lowest in Ireland’s higher education system, these fee changes do not pertain to existing students and will be introduced in gradual increments from 2019/20.

"The current capitation fee is €170 and this will be increased by €80 for 2019/20. The entire increase is €200 over four years.

"Previously the Student Union held a referendum for changes to the capitation fee as these changes applied to existing students.

"UCC has been consistently working with its Students Union on this issue and will continue to work to together with its students to ensure student services are supported.

USI President-Elect, Lorna Fitzpatrick said they were "very concerned" about the price hike.

"USI is very concerned to hear about the increase in capitation fees in UCC. We are deeply worried that such a decision was taken by the University Management without students having the opportunity to vote on the issue.

"Students and their families are already struggling financially and this increase will place a further strain on them.

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