Dáil Question to the Minister for Education

To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the research his Department have  available regarding the current availability of student loans; the engagement his Department have undergone in relation to ensuring colleges offer a direct  debit facility for student contribution fees or the plans he may have to follow this strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister Ruairí Quinn

My Department, with support and advice from the National Treasury Management  Agency, met with a number of commercial providers in relation to the provision  of credit to enable postgraduate students to pursue their studies.   A loan system is now in place for such students by Bank of Ireland which is more flexible and affordable than standard unsecured personal loans as the repayment
schedule provides for a significant period of interest-only payments.  As the loan is variable, the student can pay off the balance of the loan early, without any fees or charges, to further reduce the overall cost of credit.  

Further information on the terms and conditions of the loan is available from the bank.

With regards the student contribution, this currently stands at €2,250 and is payable by students who qualify under my Departments free fees scheme.   However as the Deputy will be aware the contribution is paid by the Exchequer in respect of students who qualify under my Department’s student grant scheme.

I have no plans to engage in discussions with regards higher education institutions putting direct debit facilities in place, the HEI’s are autonmous bodies and I have no role in their day to day operational affairs for which the management authority and governing body are responsible.

Conscious of financial pressures on families, tax relief provisions have been put in place which provide for tax relief at the standard rate of tax for full-time fees in excess of €2,250. In addition, my Department, through the Higher Education Authority (HEA), requested institutions to put arrangements in place whereby a student may pay the contribution in two instalments. I have
been assured by the HEA that these arrangements are now in place.