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Harris pushes for cut in €3,000 student fee in September cost-of-living package

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Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said that he would progress measures to reduce the cost of education. Photo: Damien Storan

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said that he would progress measures to reduce the cost of education. Photo: Damien Storan

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said that he would progress measures to reduce the cost of education. Photo: Damien Storan

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris is pushing for the €3,000 third-level student contribution to be cut as part of the Government’s September cost-of-living package.

He is seeking further concessions on student grants to take effect in the upcoming academic year.

Alongside the normal budget – the benefits of which would not normally be felt until the following year – the Government has committed to immediate measures to ease the financial burden of the highest inflation in four decades.

Both will be announced on September 27, which is two weeks earlier than the traditional budget day, to take account of the financial strain on families.

Mr Harris said the Government “has been very clear there will be two elements to this budget – the normal estimates process for 2023 and more immediate cost-of-living measures. Supporting students and their families has to be a part of both”.

CSO figures show consumer prices rose by 9.1pc in the year to July on the back of higher rents and mortgage repayments, as well as increases in the cost of food, including meat, bread, cereals, milk, cheese and eggs and hikes in gas, electricity, home heating oil and motor fuels.

Even before the current inflationary pressures, Mr Harris was calling for a reduction in the €3,000 student contribution charge to be introduced as part of a new and sustainable funding approach to higher education.

However, when the Government’s Funding the Future policy document was launched in May, it did not include any immediate change in the student contribution or any further improvements in the student grant scheme over and above what was announced in last year’s budget.

The focus of the policy document was on increased state support for the higher education sector, with the announcement of a planned investment of €307m.

Mr Harris said he would progress measures to reduce the cost of education through changes to the student grant scheme and student contributions over time.

Any changes would follow an annual assessment, which would set out the options for reducing the cost of education for students and families and be used to inform that year’s budget process.

The first such assessment is being finalised, but Mr Harris is clear that a reduction in fees and concessions on student grants must be front-loaded and included in the special September “cost of living” package to provide immediate relief, rather than waiting until 2023 for any budgetary changes to become effective.


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