Wednesday, 27 September 2017
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Fees
Based on the number of students that qualified for free fees funding in the academic year 2015/16, and taking into account overall expected increases in student numbers, it is estimated that the net cost to my Department of reducing the Student Contribution by €250 would be €18.4m; by €500 would cost €36.8m and by €1,000 would cost €73.6m.
These figures take into account the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget.
While the student contribution now stands at €3,000, it is important to recognise that the state pays this contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students. Tax relief provisions are also available so that second and subsequent siblings do not have to bear the full cost. In addition, higher education institutions have provisions in place to allow students to pay the contribution in two moieties.
It should be noted that the Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education, published in 2016, outlined the need for an increase in investment in higher education across current, capital and student support budgets including a recommendation for an increase of €1 billion in core funding for higher education institutions by 2030.
The Report is currently being considered by the Joint Oireachtas committee for Education and Skills and I look forward to receiving their recommendations which will assist in facilitating informed decision-making and the building, where possible, of a consensus approach for the future direction of funding for higher education. Accordingly, no policy decisions are being taken in this area pending the outcome of examination of the Cassells report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills.
The Government is committed to providing a more sustainable funding model for higher education, as evidenced by the fact that Budget 2017 provided the first increase in investment in higher education since 2009, involving €36.5 million extra funding in 2017 and €160 million extra over 3 years. In addition the Government is exploring the possibility of an employer-Exchequer funding mechanism which could realise up to €200 million in additional annual funding by 2020.