Message to Members re. Third Level Fees

Dear Member,
Yesterday, the Union of Students of Ireland protested about the potential introduction of third level fees in the upcoming budget.

As you are aware, the Fine Gael manifesto at the General Election stated that Fine Gael would not increase third level fees. Labour's manifesto made the exact same commitment. By increasing fees, the government will be rolling back on a general election commitment.

The reality at present is we do not know what will be announced in the budget regarding fees or the maintenance grant. On Monday the Higher Education Authority presented a report on higher level education funding to the Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn. This report, which has not been published, details the funding needs for third level education into the future.

The only aspect of education spending policy that we are clear on at this stage is the amount of funding the government will be allocating to education infrastructure. Over the next five years, the Government will spend €2.2 billion on capital expenditure. The main focus of this spending will be on building and re-developing primary and secondary schools in order to create the capacity for 80,000 school places, all of which will be needed to meet demand.

When in opposition, Fine Gael proposed (and YFG supported) a graduate tax as an alternative to an increase in fees. Unfortunately, from the day that the EU/IMF came into Ireland, our country has had no access to international funding, so this option is now unworkable because the graduate tax proposal would only work when the State could borrow funding up front.

Previous studies show that in order to maintain standards in third level education for the increasing numbers of students each year, more and more funding of the sector will be required, even at a time of large cutbacks by the government. We do not want any potential increases in fees to be the only way in which this gap is filled and if fees increase, they cannot be increased straight across the board because this treats every student and their families the same.

This view will be put to the Government and we will inform you of any developments.

Kind regards,

Eric Keane,

President, Young Fine Gael

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