What is the cost of "free fees" to the Irish State?

Foghorn

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Education is one thing that we all agree is important to the future of our country.

In recent times the issue of "free fees" has been raised. There are a number of factors that warrant consideration. First of all the notion that anything is "free" is a myth. Fees for third level were abolished in 1995, so any cost incurred by each and every student over that 15 year period cannot be recouped from students. Quite simply if a cost is incurred the State pays it. This means it cannot have the money to deal with other priorities issues - such as hospitals. So are fees truly free?

Aside from this comes a number of studies in recent times, covered in Free college tuition has failed to open doors to all - The Irish Times - Wed, Nov 03, 2010, that profess to show that free fees have made no difference at all to raising the prospects of working-class students.

But a series of expert reports and analysis from the Higher Education Authority does little to support this view.


The most comprehensive analysis of the issue, published earlier this year, is unambiguous in its finding: the abolition of university tuition fees failed to improve the chances of poorer children getting to college.
This may say more about the patronising view of those who instituted this measure - patronising in claiming that money alone is the issue. It may point too to other areas that resolving funding issues is not sufficient to address the problems. Quite simply for the past 15 years fees have not been collected from every student passing through third level and there has been no benefit!

There are other issues too. I have recently had some engagement with some third level institutions in this country. There are huge issues, primarily around attendance. Some might say it is up to the student to attend, but I disagree given the following facts;


  1. At a time when we as a country are so impoverished we are paying for students to pay for college tuition that many don't attend. The figures are quite starrling, Perhaps as high as 50% in some cases.
  2. It is doing untold damage to our ability to fund education itself on a number of fronts. First of all the money is wasted and cannot be recouped.
  3. Secondly it is damaging our image and our prospects. Foreign students have complained that they are paying thousands upon thousands to come here and they cannot get over the fact that classes are so poorly attended and that this is causing problems for the running of the classes - by people who are paying no fees! We can be assured that this won't help our standing in attracting inward investment into our education system when those foreign students return home.
  4. Foreign lecturers have also made complaints about the same. These are well-connected individuals, some of whom have links to business and government in their own countries.
Are "free fees" costing us our education system? I think so!
 


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