Heaven forbid the Government let us rejoice in our achievements

Just think, in a couple of weeks your little darlings will be packing their bags and heading off into the big, bad, scary world of third level education.

Hopefully by now the class of 2009 have their next move made, are more than delighted with their choice of course, and have a nice little room in their new home all sorted. Now all you should have to do is be confident in the fact you have taught them well and prepared them for a life of being responsible and making decisions.

Being sure they know how to make spaghetti Bolognese should be your only worry right now. But unfortunately it’s not. Before the deposit cheque for your child’s new digs could even be lodged, the Higher Education Authority made sure to remind parents that the age-old debate of reintroducing fees for third level education had not gone away. It confirmed this week that students beginning college this year will be informed that they may be liable for fees next year.

On behalf of the Department of Education, the HEA has written to all third level institutions telling them to put new students on notice when they register next month that fees may be reintroduced in the 2010-11 academic year.

Now that’s not very fair, is it? These students have worked so hard, have spent months locked away, studying hard to secure a place in a course they hope will lead to a job they love in the future. And for what? No doubt many parents out there are finding it hard to pay simple registration fees and exploitative rents, never mind the impending phone calls requesting funding for books, ESB bills, and nights out.

Surely the threat of upcoming fees is making some parents question whether or not they can fund their child’s further education at all. What’s the point in letting your child start college only to be forced to pull out when fees are reintroduced?

Thus leaving us with hundreds of young adults, wanting to learn but unable to get the funding. The chances of them getting a decent job to keep them going is slim, and social welfare isn’t going to support them.

The Government, and particularly the Department of Education, by reintroducing fees, will create a vicious circle. At this rate future third level students might as well head off to college in the US or UK.

These young adults haven’t even started college yet and they’re already getting a kick in the teeth. Students and their parents need to vocalise their anxiety. Of course students unions falsely accusing politicians of supporting a return to fees is not the way forward either.

A responsible and mature approach needs to be taken. People need to realise this isn’t simply scrounging students versus the big bad Government. This is about parents, educators, businesses, and about anyone involved with colleges, whether you own the local watering hole, or a few student houses.

It’s going to be an interesting few months ahead for everyone involved with third level education.

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