THE president of a Northside student union has slammed the Government’s introduction of a new postgraduate loan scheme because he believes it will discriminate against disadvantaged students.
Garry Corcoran, student union president of Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI), Clonliffe Road, Drumcondra – a designated higher education institute of Dublin City University (DCU) – said the loan scheme has the potential to create a two-tiered system, and only those with a good financial background will benefit.
“Minister Quinn’s recent actions in announcing the details of a new postgraduate loan scheme and in threatening to change the criteria of means testing for families of farming backgrounds and small business owners is in direct contradiction to the enabling of access to third level education in Ireland,” Mr Corcoran said.
He added: “The introduction of the postgraduate loan scheme will only assist those who are already in a comfortable financial position. The loan would also be denied to students who have a poor existing credit history.
“The proposed reform in the area of means testing for student grants will also have an undesirable effect on students who currently avail of the grant in order to attend third level education.
“If this grant is no longer available to these students then it is likely they will be under such a financial burden that they will not be able to avail of the opportunities third level education provides.”
Mr Corcoran explained that this is of considerable concern to students attending MDI as many students are from farming backgrounds or from families who own small businesses.
“At a time when we need to abolish all barriers to third level education to promote economic recovery from within, it appears that Minister Quinn is headed in the opposite direction,” Mr Corcoran said.
However, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has hailed the Bank of Ireland’s loan scheme, which has been developed in conjunction with the Department of Education and the National Treasury Management Agency, as a move in the right direction for students.
But students without a good credit history or decent financial background will not benefit from the scheme.
And critics claim that the Government is disguising the loans as a potential move away from the postgraduate grant system.
The loans were introduced to over 15 institutions and will cover registration fees for undergraduates.
The parents of undergraduate students will have to take out the loan, which will then be paid directly to the universities.
Students availing of postgraduate education will be allowed to take out the loan, which will also have to be paid to the college.
The loan will amount to an estimated €2,000 and will also be available to undergraduate students in receipt of a maintenance grant.
However, following cuts in last year’s budget, new students entering postgraduate courses from this year on are not entitled to maintenance payments under the Student Grant Scheme.
The loan’s repayments will be interest-only during the academic year and three months after.
The repayments after this period will have an interest rate of 10.8 per cent and it can be paid for up to five years, depending on the student’s financial circumstances.