AIT students took to the main entrance of the college last Thursday, February 22, to voice their frustrations with a controversial new charge levied on students.
In September, students were asked to pay an additional €100 on top of their tuition fees; a charge that AIT says is to “assist the institute in meeting the cost of providing student/class materials. These costs include printed material, laboratory manuals, field trips, glassware, software licenses and other project/class materials.”
The fee is not covered by the SUSI grant.
Students who did not pay the charge found their exam results withheld, and those who still refused to pay were locked out of any student services connected with their student cards, like emails and online lecture notes. This freeze-out has been particularly disturbing to final year students attempting to complete their theses.
Áine Daly is a fourth year Social Care student, and candidate for Welfare Officer in the upcoming Students’ Union elections. She has promised to keep fighting against the materials fee should she be elected.
“We were blindsided with this fee, which was only announced after we had paid our tuition,” she said. “For students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, something like this could be the difference between them staying in college or leaving college.”
“The fee is supposed to cover materials, but theory-based courses like Social Care, Business, or Law don’t use any materials or go on field trips. It is a pointless fee for those students, and has really affected our experience in the college.
The Students’ Union at AIT voted against the fee last year, and since its introduction has petitioned to have it lowered and its enforcement delayed. Welfare Officer Oisín Moloughney said that the Union will continue to lobby against the fee.
“Some students are already under enough pressure to cover the expenses of attending college,” he said. “The fact that exam results and IT access is being withheld to students who cannot pay the fee is not fair. We have always opposed and will continue to oppose this unfair charge.”
AIT declined to comment on the student protest or the materials fee.