Third level fees might not be about to be reintroduced but that does not mean there will not be a hike in registration fees, which will make education more highly expensive than it already is.
These are the concerns being expressed by both the NUI Galway Students Union and Labour councillor Niall McNelis, following the news that third level fees will not be reintroduced as part of the Programme for Government between Fianna Fáil and The Greens.
The NUI Galway Students Union gave a “guarded welcome” to the fees U turn but is concerned that the annual registration fee paid by all students will be targeted once again by Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe. The fee, which was doubled last summer, now stands at €1,500 and the Government has refused to rule out further hikes to the registration fee. Many see this as fees ‘by the back door’.
“Students have shown that they won’t tolerate more attacks on education,” said Donna Cummins, the SU president, “and the Greens and the Minister have to realise that they can’t give with one hand and take away with the other.”
The SU’s concern was shared by Labour councillor Niall McNelis, who said third level fees already exist but are just disguised as registration fees.
In last October’s budget, The Green Party signed up to increasing the college registration fee from €900 to €1,500,” he said. “They received no firm commitment that this won’t happen in the upcoming December Budget.”
Cllr McNelis pointed out that education “isn’t free”.
“Students have to pay for registration fees, books, accommodation, and travel,” he said. “Adding fees on top of this will make it even harder for students to further their education and reach their full potential.”
Minister O’Keeffe is coming to Galway next week and Cllr McNelis is calling on him to clarify that the Programme for Government rules out any form of third level fees, including a hike in the registration fees over the lifetime of this Government.