The Minister of Higher Education has said he wants to start cutting the €3,000 student contribution for college applicants from the budget for October this year.
Aymon Harris said he “makes no apologies” that the registration fee should be lowered and student grants should be increased.
Mr. Harris declined to say how much he wants the fee to be reduced, saying only that the government has an opportunity to consider the registration fee in October this year.
“We can’t, as a country, say we want to help people upskill and retrain and then impose a state tax on the cost of further education,” Mr. Harris said.
I can understand the frustration, I can’t speculate on itSimon Harris
“One of my passions is the €3,000 student registration fee.
“It was very clear to me that I thought it was too high. I’ve also made it very clear that how I decide this depends on the budget process.
“I would tell students and parents that most people pay fees and dues.
“So the government has a chance to look at both the registration fee and how to further improve student grants in the October budget.”
Speaking to RTE Morning Ireland, Mr Harris declined to say how much he wants the fee cut.
He added: “I can understand the frustration, I can’t speculate on that.
“For any student, student grants increase from September, so nothing to do with the budget in October, student grants increase from September.
“More families will be eligible for student grants from September due to income threshold changes and many students will see their grants cut by 20%, 25%, 30% due to changes we have made to what we call the adjacency ratio. .
“The next step will be in October. I got the agreement from the government that before the budget, in September, we will publish what we call an article on the cost of education.
“This education cost document will outline all of my options for how I can cut costs for students.
“I do not apologize for the fact that the registration fee should be reduced. Student grants should be increased and I am working intensively on these issues with government colleagues.”
Meanwhile, the minister also announced an additional 1,056 college places available from September.
Mr. Harris said the additional places would be in targeted areas and would include an additional 60 places in medicine.
“These are areas where we as a country have identified a need for skills or where students have identified a huge demand,” he added.
“So, to give you an example that comes up every year, this is a problem in medicine. We are announcing another 60 medical places from September.
“There are just over 700 drugstores here, so that’s about 8% more. Last year they added three additional places, this year – 60.
“We’ve been working on this with the Department of Health, we’ve been working on this with the HSE, and we’re actually starting to plan for the workforce.
“We are also announcing additional positions for nurses, engineers, architects, as well as medical disciplines, including some types of therapy, and, of course, digital skills.”
He added: “I think one of the benefits of my still relatively new department is that we can start planning the workforce, especially for the civil service.
“So I wrote to my government colleagues and said, could you put together your requirements for us in terms of how many social workers, how many speech and speech therapists, how many physiotherapists we need.
“Then we will work with our secretary to put together a multi-year plan.”
He also announced 16 more apprenticeship programs to be developed before the end of the year.
“Last year we saw the highest number of people ever registered as apprentices and this is part of our real drive to culturally change the landscape here in Ireland to understand that there are many different ways to qualify,” he added.
“Apprenticeship is no less effective way. So we have 16 more apprenticeship programs. There are a number of areas from the farm manager to gardening, software solutions.”