Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (178)

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

182 Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if his attention has been drawn to recent reports that a university intends to provide loans to students parents in an arrangement with a bank; if he has any oversight in relation to this arrangement to ensure that students are protected from incurring long-term debt and interest; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35341/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Skills)

I understand that this refers to a loan scheme arrangement agreed between the university and a bank in respect of the cost of the student contribution charge.

As the Deputy will be aware a new student contribution charge of €2,000 was introduced in higher education by the previous Government with effect from the 2011/2012 academic year. This charge replaced the previous student services charge and applies to all students who currently benefit under the "free fees" scheme. The charge is due to increase to €2,250 for the next academic year.

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has written to higher education institutions requesting that they show flexibility and consideration to students awaiting a decision on their grant application and/or payment of grants for the current academic year. At my Department's request the HEA have recently sent a reminder to institutions again requesting that flexibility be shown to students for the next academic year and to request that students be allowed pay the charge in two instalments if required.

The Higher Education institutions are autonomous institutions and my Department does not have any function in their day to day operational affairs, for which the Governing Bodies and the management staff of the institutions are responsible. The loan arrangements entered into is a matter for the university concerned and accordingly I do not have a role in this matter.

It should be noted that the charge is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under my Department's student grant scheme. Tax relief is also available for second and subsequent siblings to help alleviate the cost for families.