USI calling for €500 reduction in fees for third-level students

The union has published its pre-budget submission, and is calling for a €140m investment in higher education

USI calling for €500 reduction in fees for third-level students

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The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is calling for at least a €500 reduction in fees for third-level students.

The USI this morning launched its pre-budget submission, and are calling on the Government to "match talk of economic recovery with financial investment in third-level education".

Copies of the submission were delivered to Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin's constituency offices.

The Student Contribution for the 2016-17 academic year was set at €3,000 in last year's Budget - the same as the previous year's figure.

However, the USI says that should be reduced by a minimum of €500 - suggesting that each €500 reduction would cost around €34 million a year.

The union is calling for a number of other measures, including an investment of €140m into the higher education sector, a reverse of cuts to student grants, and for the Government to completely reinstate postgraduate grants.

The USI says that its own research has suggested 58% of students use "extreme budgeting tactics" - including skipping meals - in order to meet the high costs of third-level education.

Annie Hoey, USI President, says "hundreds of thousands of students and their families" are extremely concerned about the rising costs.

She explained: “Abolishing the post-graduate grants has created a two-tier system where students from lower socio-economic backgrounds cannot progress past an undergraduate level. Reinstating the post-grad grants will keep things on a level playing field.

"USI believes that the sector should be praised for its efforts to deliver quality education during a sustained period of underinvestment and uncertainty. However, what is necessary as a response to crisis is not sustainable as a long-term model," she added.

The USI submission comes as the latest university rankings - which saw all Irish universities except NUI Galway slipping - led to fresh calls for increased funding for third-level institutions.