Thomas Pringle TD

Dáil Q: Has the Minister decided if he will introduce a student loan system in Ireland?

1st Stage Water in public ownership Bill 2016

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For Oral Answer on : 22/05/2018

Question Number(s): 85 Question Reference(s): 22437/18

Department: Education and Skills

Asked by: Thomas Pringle T.D.

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QUESTION

 

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when a decision will issue regarding the introduction of income contingent loans for third level education; the issues regarding student debt and the resulting barriers to education for persons from disadvantaged backgrounds which will be taken into account which is the case in other jurisdictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

 

REPLY

 

Higher education is a central part of our plan as a Government to support a strong economy and deliver a fair society.  The Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding (Cassells Report) which was published in July 2016, clearly outlines the funding challenges in the higher education sector and offers a number of potential policy approaches for consideration.

 

As committed to in the Programme for Government, I referred the Cassell’s Report to the Oireachtas Education Committee to review its recommendations and outline a proposed funding plan for the sector, as part of the process of building political consensus around the most appropriate means of ensuring a sustainable funding model for the future.

 

In January 2018, 18 months after publication of the Report, my Department received a request from the Oireachtas Committee for the Department to carry out a comprehensive economic evaluation of each of the recommendations put forward in the Report. I have agreed to this request.

 

My Department and I are currently considering the most appropriate means of undertaking the economic examination of each of the proposed policy options presented in the Report to assist the Committee and to ensure that a sustainable funding model for Higher Education is developed to support the realisation of the economy’s growth potential. No policy changes will be made in advance of this work being undertaken.

 

While Cassells deals with the medium and long term funding needs of higher education we also have to consider the immediate challenges.  Since publication of the Cassells Report I have prioritised additional investment in higher education in Budget 2017 and Budget 2018. As a result, the Department of Education and Skills is investing €100m more in higher education in 2018 compared to 2016. I will look to build on this investment in 2019 and beyond.

 

In January I published an independent review of the current allocation model for funding higher education which provides a roadmap for transitioning towards a reformed funding model that is more transparent, consistent across higher education institutions, incentivises actions in key strategic areas such as access to education, research and STEM provision, and supports improved accountability while also respecting institutional autonomy.

 

This comprehensive approach is being taken in order to contribute to the development of a long-term sustainable funding model for the sector.  As such, it will be important to build broad political and societal consensus on achieving the most appropriate future funding model and my Department and I continue to work to that end.

 

The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression.  The Student Grant Scheme 2018 and the Student Support Regulations 2018 can be accessed on my Department’s website via the following links:

http://www.education.ie/en/Learners/Information/Student-Grants/Student-Grant-Scheme.pdf

 

http://www.education.ie/en/Learners/Information/Student-Grants/Student-Support-Regulations.pdf

 

My Department also provides funding for the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The fund is available in various publicly funded higher education institutions. The SAF provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards their rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials. The SAF is open to full-time registered students on courses of not less than one year’s duration leading to an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification.

 

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