This is an issue students across the country know all too well. On Wednesday the 19th of October students marched outside Dáil Éireann against a proposal of increasing fees to €5,000 and introducing a loan scheme. Student presidents, college students and lecturers are all not in favour of a loan scheme. Why would they be in favour of seeing a twenty-two year old, young, ambitious person who has just finished college with €20,000 of debt behind them?
The loan scheme has other instant knock-on effects. Current students and students entering into third level education feel the financial burden straight away. Introducing a loan scheme could make it difficult for mature, HEAR and DARE students and students all around Ireland to attend college.
The hashtag used on Twitter was #EducationIs. In my opinion, #EducationIs something that older generations recommends to us, is something to reach and strive for, yet the Irish government want to burden us with a loan scheme. Union of Students in Ireland have the message that ‘Education is taking to the streets for publicly funded education and against debt.’ Public funded education has been around for many years and if a loan system is introduced, publicly funded education will eventually disappear.
At the moment about half the students who attend college receive a SUSI grant and are exempt from paying the student fee of €3,000. If a student loan system was introduced students would pay back this debt after they start earning above a minimum income level, when they start working in their chosen career. The fear for students is that how can I afford to pay back my debt and to buy a house when I’m older? Will the fees eventually raise even more? This financial burden also affects the parents and guardians who fork out the money for college for their son/daughter. A lot of college students still rely on their parents to pay for accommodation, and to support them through college. It’s not as if everyone’s wages increased dramatically to afford these extra fees and extra costs.
The plan for the loan system, is that when a student has reached the income of €26,000, they will begin to pay their loan back. Imagine being on this salary, having to pay debt back and pay for accommodation which ranges from €6,000-7,000 yearly, depending on where you are situated. Everyone knows student graduates don’t earn the big bucks for a long time, yet they are expected to still pay for this expenditure. The loan would take about fifteen years to repay back. Wahey, the joys of being a student in the 21th century.
A video from the USI’s website features student union presidents from all the colleges and universities across Ireland giving their say on this matter. Again, all student union presidents are against a loan system and emphasise the hardships that Irish students face.
Is this fair for students to have to repay a loan back? A new student graduate has a lot on their plate already, between finding a job, wondering what the next step is, never mind introducing further burdens. They will finish college feeling on cloud nine, yet they will probably want to throw a ‘Britney 2007’ due to this debt of €20,000, an extra pressure in their life they don’t need.
At the demonstration on Wednesday outside Dáil Éireann, approximately 15,000 students from across Irish colleges gathered to protest against this loan scheme. A similar number of 15,000 students signed the petition against the proposal. The logo on the t-shirts was ‘Hello, my debt is €20,000.’ This logo portrays the exact message sent out at the protest. The demonstration was arranged by the Union of Students in Ireland and achieved mass student support.
To sum up: Students have 99 problems and a student loan isn’t one they need. Why pile more burden and pressure on students and their families with a loan scheme? We don’t need the extra stress!