Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (677)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

677. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will consider decreasing the €3,000 maximum rate of the student contribution in view of the fact that many students will not be using third-level facilities due to the Covid-19 emergency period and will instead be attending college courses and lectures remotely; if further consideration will be given to the fact that third-level institutions are charging fees for facilities, for example, gyms that are not open for students to use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26933/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

Under the Department’s free fees schemes, the Exchequer provides funding toward the tuition fee costs of eligible undergraduate Higher Education students with students paying the student contribution. The student contribution fee is currently set at €3,000 per annum and can be paid in instalments. The State pays the contribution in full or part, through SUSI, for approximately 44% of students eligible for free fees.

I am very conscious of the impact of the pandemic has had on our students. In July I announced the provision of additional student assistance including a doubling of the Student Assistance Fund, and a €15 million technology fund for devices for students in further and higher education to assist with difficulties in accessing technology to facilitate their course work in a blended capacity. These supports will be distributed through the colleges and further education providers.

The Programme for Government undertakes to provide a long term sustainable funding model for higher education. In addition the range of student supports operated by SUSI will be subject to review. An important objective will be to ensure access to and continued participation in higher education by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The delivery of further and higher education in the context of Covid-19 will cost the providers more not less. The Government has provided additional funding in the amount of €168m to support the return of students to further and higher education and the additional funding provided for student supports will be of assistance to many students particularly those with the least financial resources.

I will continue to work with further and higher education providers, agencies and key stakeholders including student representatives to mitigate the additional pressures faced as a result of covid-19. Consideration of the student contribution will be in the context of annual estimates discussions and programme for government commitments.