The Student Contribution, which currently stands at €3,000, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. Based on the number of students that qualified for free fees funding in the academic year 2017/18 (and were therefore liable to pay the Student Contribution), and taking into account expected increases in student numbers, it is estimated that the net cost to my Department of reducing the contribution by €250 would cost approximately €19 million.
It should be noted that this figure incorporates 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 there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15. The exchequer pays this contribution (or part of it) on behalf of almost 50% of undergraduate students who are in receipt of student grant assistance.
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.
I cannot comment, or preempt any decisions to be taken by Government as part of Budget 2020 at this stage, other than to assure the Deputy that funding for the higher education sector will continue to be a key focus for me and my Department and that as referred to above there are no plans to increase the student contribution during the lifetime of this Government.