As the Deputy will be aware, under my Departments free fees scheme eligible full-time undergraduate students have their tuition fees paid on their behalf by the Exchequer. The student contribution, which is currently €2,250 per academic year, is payable by students who qualify under the free fees scheme. Students who qualify under my Department's student grant scheme have the student contribution paid on their behalf by the Exchequer. The Higher Education Authority (HEA), at my request, asked institutions to put arrangements in place whereby students may pay the contribution in two instalments. This is in order to spread the financial cost of third level, rather than having to make one lump payment at the start of the academic year.
The position is that higher education institutions, including universities, are autonomous bodies and I have no role in their day to day operational affairs. Those matters are the responsibility of the management authority and governing body. In relation to the specific issue of debt collectors, as referred to by the Deputy, I would hope that institutions deal with such students in a sensitive and understanding manner.