Carol Nolan TD
Speaking yesterday at the meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills, Carol Nolan said that there is huge uncertainty about the potential costs and operation of a student loan scheme.
“I am completely unconvinced in relation to the proposal of an income contingent loan as a solution to the financial crisis in higher education. In particular, I am concerned about access to higher education among under represented groups," Nolan remarked.
“There is no evidence that the introduction of a student loan scheme as proposed will address this issue and may even exacerbate it further with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds more unwilling to take on high levels of debt," she added.
“There is confusion in relation to the potential costs and operation of a student loan scheme – whether it would be government funded or operated via a special purpose vehicle. This raises more questions than answers. A lack of data means that it is virtually impossible to predict the default rate with accuracy and this begs the question as to what would happen if a student loan scheme was more costly than anticipated," the Offaly deputy said.
“Would loans be sold off to private investors as has happened in England? Would fees increase? Would the government have control of the terms and conditions of the loans? Would we have to cut student numbers?" Nolan pondered.
“In my opinion, as I stated to the chair of the Committee today, it is impossible to even consider the introduction of a student loan scheme amid such uncertainty."
“The OECD has stated that the public return for Irish graduates is higher than average across OECD countries, showing clearly that public investment in higher education makes good economic sense," she stated.
“Sinn Féin is committed to resolving the crisis in higher education. In our alternative budget we provided for an investment of €120 million in Higher Education and we believe that publicly funded third level system is the only means to securing affordable higher education for our citizens," Nolan concluded.
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