Student loan scheme no solution – Deputy Seán Crowe
Sinn Féin education spokesperson, Seán Crowe, TD, says the new Bank of Ireland, government-backed loan scheme for post-graduate students will perpetuate a two-tier college system.
He said the scheme gave students whose families who are on a low or middle income a “swim-sink-or-drop-out option”.
Deputy Crowe was responding to the launch of Bank of Ireland’s post-graduate student loan scheme developed in conjunction with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).
Under the scheme the bank pays tuition fees for students. Repayments will be interest-only until three months after graduation and capital repayments thereafter will be at variable interest rate of 10.8 per cent.
Last year 3,600 post-graduate students pursuing a diploma, masters or PhD qualified for a maintenance grant and free fees that were worth up to €6,000 each per year.
Deputy Seán Crowe said: “Cuts announced in this year’s budget removed the postgraduate maintenance grant making it impossible for thousands of Irish students to attain a postgraduate qualification.
“There are well founded fears that this loan scheme which has the support of Minister Quinn and the Department of Education and Skills (DES), will mostly benefit students who are already financially secure.
“The scheme will give most students whose families who are on a low or middle incomes a sink-swim-or-drop-out option.
“As the USI has said, many students are already heavily overdrawn as they struggle to pay for their undergraduate programmes so this scheme will be of limited value.
“There can be no justification for a 10.8 per cent interest rate which compares very unfavorably with the British government-backed scheme which charges 1.5 per cent. Most students who access this loan will find themselves burdened with years of debt.
I believe this scheme will become a long-term alternative that is designed to replace central government funding and allow the reintroduction of third level fees for undergraduate courses."