AIT president Professor Ciarán Ó Cátháin says urgent action is needed to address the shortfall in funding for the institute, following the publication of the Cassells Report on third level education this week.
Professor Ó Catháin says AIT is approximately €0.5 million in the red this year and is eating into its ‘rainy day fund’ to cover running costs.
“We’re working at the moment on an operational deficit. Our current funding is insufficient to cover the cost of the institute. The money that we have put by for rainy day funds is actually being used to keep AIT afloat,” he said.
He says the college cannot afford to wait another two years for the Government to address the lack of funding for third level facilities.
The Cassells Report, published by Minister for Education Richard Bruton on Monday (July 11 ) two years after it was commissioned, put forward three options for funding the sector. They are a predominantly State-funded system; increased State funding with continuing student fees; or increased State funding with deferred payment of fees through income contingent loans.
An Oireachtas Committee is to consider the findings of the report.
President of AIT Students Union, Kevin Ronan, criticised the loan scheme option proposed in the report, saying it would cost students between €22,000 and €66,000 and would deter young people from applying to college.
“The idea of taking on a loan of €66,000 to a 17- or 18-year-old, or someone who’s just finished the Leaving Cert, will deter them from applying to college,” said Mr Ronan.
“It doesn’t matter how they present it, a loan scheme is still a loan scheme and still has the major problems associated with loan schemes, such as widening the gap between the rich and the poor, graduate emigration, and social regression. Our generation is the first generation who will be less well off than our parents – how can we possibly progress with student loan schemes becoming the norm for young people?”
However he welcomed the publicly funded education option and is urging the Government to go down this route to improve higher education funding.
“Publicly funded education is a viable option and is one that is preferred by students across the country. Since 2008, the registration fee has more than tripled. Third level education in Ireland is at a breaking point. We need to reinstall proper free education in Ireland by reducing or eliminating the registration fee, and increasing student support.”