'We are just not competitive enough at third level to charge those fees'
James Blackwell, who is about to start his third year in physics and medical physics at NUIG, is concerned about the fairness of the loan system for student fees.
The 20-year-old student from Limerick would prefer to see a continuation of the contribution charge that is currently in place, where students pay €3,000 a year.
"My main argument is that we are just not competitive enough (at third level) to be charging these prices," James says when asked about the prospect of paying €5,000.
He agrees that, while fees are significantly higher in the UK and the US, they also have some of the top universities in the world.
"I don't think Ireland can compete," says James, whose parents are funding his studies. He also says paying back a loan after college would be a challenge.
"If I've just finished college and I'm in an entry-level position, I don't think I want any extra financial burdens," he says.
"At least with the current system, you know what you're paying for. It's not a crazy amount."
He acknowledges that it is a reasonable expectation that students should contribute money to their education, but believes that €3,000 a year is a fair amount for students in return for the education they receive. Meanwhile, the free fees option is "unrealistic", he believes.
"Where would the money come from for that kind of option? It seems like a bit of a fairy tale at the moment. I don't think it's realistic," he adds.