As if not having a job was bad enough for those starting at 3rd level this autumn, the threat of the re-introduction of fees, in various guises, has put one of the most vulnerable groups in society in a precarious situation.
By Joeseph Loughnane, Dublin Socialist Youth
Picture the scene – a student is finding it very hard to find part-time work, the student’s parents have had their hours and pay cut, fees of €8,000 have been introduced. By the time the student leaves college, they will have massive debts hanging over his head for the next part of his life, and could struggle even to find a job. Multiply this story by thousands and this will be the picture if fees are introduced.
If fees come in next year, many families will simply not be able to cope with this pressure and will force their sons and daughters to drop out, again harming the standard of education in this country. It is these 1st years who have started college this September that will face this burden first and foremost. This is why we must move now to involve them in a mass movement to fight fees.
What types of fees are being proposed? One type that Batt is considering is a graduate tax, whereby students would be expected to pay back 30% of their college tuition costs through income tax after they graduate and begin earning over a certain income. FF are also believed to be looking at the Australian deferred loans model. Here, the debt is recovered through the tax office, and the annual repayment depends on the former student’s income.
A recent Australian report, the Bradley report, gave the facts of this model: involvement of disadvantaged groups has been static or falling in Australia over the past decade and the quality of educational experience is declining, along with the obvious fact that young people will be in financial ruin. The most likely results of either scheme will be that after finishing college, graduates will leave Ireland, avoiding repayments and massive debt – once again creating a ‘brain drain’ in Ireland.
It is clear from this that we need to oppose any form of fees being proposed. We need to do this in a mass unified manner, with direct involvement by those who will be most affected: students, parents and the workers in the college, whose jobs will be affected when the numbers in university come rocketing down.
The situation in England has shown that it’s far harder to defeat fees once they’ve been introduced. That means we have one year to stop fees, one year to stop massive debt, drop-outs and emigration. It’s time to get active!