A students group is calling for the fee paid by third-level students should be 'immediately' reduced by at least €500 for the coming academic year.
Most third-level institutions charge an €3,000 annual student contribution to cover student services and exams.
Over the weekend, the Irish Examiner reported that Education Minister Norma Foley said colleges will be able to charge the full fee even if there is restricted access to campus due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
Lorna Fitzpatrick, President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), told Ciara Kelly on Newstalk Breakfast that they're 'very disappointed' with the announcement.
She said: "The Government really needs to show leadership here - we've been calling for a minimum €500 in the student contribution charge, and to have a plan to phase that out over a number of years.
"Our system was underfunded to begin with... with COVID, it's been reported there could be an up to €500 million deficit.
"The situation up until now proved to be risky in terms of a financial strategy.
"There needs to be a broader conversation about the overall funding for higher education, but in the meantime an immediate €500 reduction for students and their families would be very helpful."
Ms Fitzpatrick said the €3,000 fee is already the highest in the EU, and suggested reducing it by €500 would cost around €39 million this year.
She argued that the conversation around the charge and overall funding of the system needs to be had "regardless of the time that student spend on campus".
She pointed out that students don't yet know how much time they'll be spending on campus, as most institutions have yet to release their timetables for the coming academic year.
Ms Fitzpatrick said the USI has already had discussions with Higher Education Minister Simon Harris about the prospect of a €500 cut to the fee this year.
However, she stressed that a reduction of the fee this year needs to be part of a wider reform of third-level education in the country.
She said: "We've been calling for the introduction of publicly-funded education, which would see us taking on the mantra of education being a public good."