Students face further hike in registration fee for college
STUDENTS face the prospect of another hike in college registration fees.
Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan yesterday ruled out a return of third-level fees as 58,000 students received their Leaving Certificate results.
But she refused to rule out another hike to college registration fees in the Budget.
And sources last night indicated to the Irish Independent that another increase to the €1,500 fee was likely.
Hikes in the student registration fee were last night branded as "third-level fees by the back door" and "fees by another name" by opposition parties.
The registration fee has risen by 780pc -- from €190 to €1,500 -- since it was first introduced a decade and a half ago.
The fee is used for a variety of purposes, such as exam charges, medical and counselling facilities for students, access and disability services, careers office, student facilities, student clubs, societies and other relevant support services.
The charge jumped from €900 to €1,500 in last year's December Budget. During the negotiations on the revised Programme for Government last year, the Green Party obtained a commitment that third-level fees would not be introduced during the lifetime of this Government.
But the party did not receive any commitments on the future level of registration fees.
Now students and their families face an anxious wait until December to learn if there will be further hikes in 2011. The Union of Students in Ireland claimed further increases would place college "beyond the reach" of some students.
Labour's education spokesman Ruairi Quinn said using registration fees to boost revenue for colleges was "fees by another name". But Ms Coughlan refused to rule out fee hikes.
"I haven't made any decisions and have not come to any finality with the Minister for Finance on the reductions in my expenditure. That won't happen until the time of the Budget," Ms Coughlan said outside Portmarnock Community College in Dublin where students were arriving to obtain their Leaving Cert results.
Pressed again on the issue, Ms Coughlan claimed it was not appropriate to speculate.
"I can't rule out anything at this moment in time," she said.
The minister said she appreciated third-level colleges were under "considerable pressure" financially.
The Department of Education and colleges were working together to bring about "greater efficiencies" to deal with current financial difficulties, she said.
She added that a report on the future development and funding of third-level colleges will be brought before Cabinet for discussion in September.