I propose to take Questions Nos. 367 and 368 together.
The Student Contribution, which currently stands at €3,000, was introduced with effect from the 2011/12 academic year. It is important to recognise that there has been no increase in the contribution since 2014/15.
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, the estimated net cost to my Department of reducing the contribution by €250 or €500 is outlined below.
Reduce by (per student)
Estimated net cost to Department
It should be noted that the above estimates incorporate the resulting reduction to my Department's Student Grant Scheme budget as 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.
The Deputy may wish to note that family income does not influence eligibility for the free fees scheme.
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.