Union of Students in Ireland (USI) today called on Senators to support a Labour private members motion this Wednesday, rejecting any move to implement an income-contingent loan scheme but instead to publicly invest in third level education.
In advance of the debate, USI President Michael Kerrigan said, “A decision to go ahead with an income-contingent loan scheme will increase emigration and sends a clear message to our future students: take your €20,000 debt, your degree, and get out. Ireland currently charges the 2nd highest higher education fees in Europe after the UK, and we’ve seen in the UK that the poorest students will graduate with £57,000 debt hanging over their heads. If our Government reduced fees by a minimum of €250 a year over the next decade we can actually claim to be an island of saints and scholars, and not debtors and emigrants”.
Over 12,000 people take to the streets on October 19th 2017 for publicly funded higher education4th year St Angela’s student, Lauren Devine, said, “I am currently over €12,000 in debt with student loans. It has seriously impacted on my studies and my own mental health as a result of working long hours every weekend and often midweek to try to pay it back at just a minimum of €70 per week I might add”.
Lauren Hayde, a 2nd year Waterford IT student, said, “The only way I would have been able to go to college was if I took out a student loan, and I did. I had to take out a €3,000 loan which just covered my accommodation for the year. I took this loan out over 5 years and will be left with this debt once I graduate, so if I am lucky enough to get a job straight out of college the money earned will just go back to paying off this loan. If I had the choice to never take out a loan I wouldn’t”.
On October 19th, 12,000 people took to the streets against income contingent loans and in favour of publicly funded higher education. The union have emphasised a 363% increase in the student contribution charge from €825 to €3000 while state funding has dropped almost 40%, from €1.4 billion to about €860 million has plunged the higher education system into this crisis.
USI is the national representative body for the 354,000 students in third level education on the Island of Ireland. USI works to improve and protect the lives of students every day on academic and social issues through campaigns, training and research. USI proposes that the government further subsidise higher education institutions by a minimum of €17.5m in order to deliver a reduction in the Student Contribution Charge of at least €250.
Research shows income-contingent loans would cost €10bn over 12 years. The financial strain of college and the effects of student debt spans across all communities and groups including parents, children, staff and teachers – not just students. America’s student loan debt ($1tn+) is greater in value than the combined economies of Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia. With 10 of 14 Institutes of Technology in serious financial difficulty, using student debt to plug this gap will see our institutions collapse.
There is a need for additional annual funding of €600 million by 2021 and €1 billion by 2030 to deliver higher quality outcomes and provide for increased demographics. This target can be reached by increasing percentage of tax revenue as a % of GDP (currently at 30%) to the OECD average of 34%.