Student Services Charge Subsidising 3rd Level Budget Deficits
In the Seanad today Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty today impressed upon the Education Minister the need to commit to ensuring the proper dispersion of the Student Services charge by higher Education institutions throughout Ireland, and to guarantee that all monies collected through the Student Services Charge are invested in student services, and are not used to pay down institutional debt.
The Donegal Senator said:
"As Senators will be aware a sum that is fast approaching €1000 is collected from third level students at the start of the academic year. The fee is colloquially termed 'the student registration fee' but in financial terms within colleges is called 'the Student Services Charge'.
"There are guidelines from the Higher Education Authority written in the mid 90s that advise how this money should be spent.
"It is currently distributed among a variety of stakeholders. But in UCD this year, the total net income from the Student Services Charge gathered from students was €10,508,000. However, only €6,676,000 was spent on the various student support services.
"Unbelievably, €3,832,000 was collected from the students by the university but not spent on Student Support Services, due to what is entered in the university accounts as the reduction in the HEA grant.
"Due to the reduction in the money given to universities since Minister Dempsey was in Education in 2002, this particular University has been taking a significant portion of the Student Services Charge to cover the University deficit.
"It is clear that this practice is being carried out in very bad faith. Students and tax-payers are not being told. Money collected through the Student Services Charge need to be invested in the much-needed, under-resourced student services. It is clear that students are not receiving the support that is needed.
"With pressures of childcare, cost of course equipment, accommodation issues etc adding to the financial burden that student's carry the least that can be done with this vast amount of money is to invest it back in the students and give them the support that they so rightly deserve.
"Financial issues haunt students on a daily basis and too often create a barrier to pursuing further education especially for mature students, lower income groups and single parents.
"I would call on the minister to formally commit to ensuring the proper dispersion of the Student Services Charge by higher education institutions throughout Ireland and guarantee that all monies collected through this charge are invested in student services and not used to pay down institutional debt." ENDS