Students call for reduced remote learning fees as colleges set to charge full €3k

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called for an immediate €500 reduction of student college fees with many classes set to take place remotely.

It comes as yesterday Education Minister Norma Foley said third-level colleges will be able to charge their students the full €3,000 in contribution fees, even if they severely restrict access to campus and force them to stay at home.

USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick says the State should cover the cost of reducing the student contribution fee if a lot of coursework is delivered remotely: “The immediate reduction in the student contribution charge, we would ask for the State to cover that.

“The cost of it is about 39 million, and as I say, that would have to be as part of a broader plan around funding the sector adequately.”

We still don’t know whether people are going to have significant costs in terms of accommodation and other things like that, because their timetables for the vast majority have yet to be released.

Ms Fitzpatrick says many students are still uncertain of how much time they will need to be on campus: “The vast majority of students don’t actually realise or understand at the moment, because the institutions haven’t been clear with them as to how regularly they are going to be expected to be on campus.

“So we still don’t know whether people are going to have significant costs in terms of accommodation and other things like that, because their timetables - for the vast majority - have yet to be released.”

Minister Foley had been called on by the Opposition to confirm that a reduced fee would apply in relation to “blended learning”, however, she confirmed yesterday that with the third level sector in financial turmoil, reductions would not be applied.

“Any determination as to the level of fees to be charged is a matter for each institution in accordance with its own particular operational conditions and circumstances in ensuring education provision for students through this pandemic,” she said according to the Irish Examiner.

Under the current free fees scheme, the exchequer provides funding toward the tuition costs of eligible undergraduate students, with students paying a student contribution or registration fee of €3,000 to colleges.