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Simon Harris admits some students ‘won’t qualify’ for rent credit but says cost of education has ‘dropped permanently’


Higher Education Minister Simon Harris

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris

The Higher Education Minister has admitted “some students will not qualify” for the €500 rent relief credit and said the inner workings of scheme lie with the Department of Finance.

Simon Harris said the measures which he introduced in the Budget are the ones “within the control of my department”, and the separate one-off €1,000 student fee discount is designed to recognise “the pressure” that students and their parents are feeling due to the cost-of-living crisis.

It comes as parents who pay for their student children’s accommodation will not benefit from the new rental tax relief and their exclusion from the €500-a-year saving has generated anger.

"It is true that this rent relief scheme is obviously linked to the taxpayer. There's no doubt about that,” Minister Harris told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne.

“I have brought in very specific measures, which have been widely welcomed by many, many parents and students who are paying these bills to reduce the bills. The cost of going to college is falling, as a result of these measures, for the first time in many years.”

Under measures introduced in the Budget, college fees have dropped by €1,000 for this year.

Fees will permanently by €500 for families earning less than €100,000 – meaning students will pay €2,500 a year to attend college.

Families earning €62,000 a year will pay no more than €1,500 in fees due to changes in student grant rules.

Meanwhile, all student grant recipients will get a double payment this year while those studying for PHDs will get a once off cost-of-living payment before Christmas.

Asked why the €1,000 fee reduction has not been made permanent for all families, Minister Harris said: “As a result of this budget, college fees have fallen. As a result of this budget, there are countless families who will not have to pay the €3000 again and as a result of this budget, more than 100,000 students, whether they're apprentices, whether they're postgrads, or whether they’re undergraduate students will receive financial assistance of some sorts between now and Christmas.”

NUI Galway students held a sleep-out last night in protest at the lack of accommodation available for students around the country coupled with sky-high rents. 

Mr Harris admitted that the higher education sector has been too reliant on private accommodation providers and going forward the Government will use tax income to build “college owned student accommodation”.

In the meantime, he said the rent a room scheme is a viable solution and reiterated his support for it.

“I fully stand over my advocacy and support for the rent a room,” he added.

“There will be many people who are listening to this programme, who when they went to college, rented a spare room at home in the community. I'm not saying it's perfect. I'm not saying it works for everyone, but it certainly is a temporary release valve and I have a figures here in front of me that as of yesterday 1,587 spare rooms were advertised on college websites for rent.”

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