Minister Simon Harris is considering a college fee reduction to €3,000 in the forthcoming budget

Up to 88,000 students would benefit from a EUR 3,000 reduction in university fees. It comes as a pre-budget analysis has estimated the cost of the cuts to the state at between €250 and €1,000.

A €500 reduction in the annual fee would cost €43 million, according to the analysis for Education Minister Simon Harris.

Mr Harris is battling with public spending chiefs over a cut to be announced on Budget Day, September 27. Various numbers have been mentioned, including €250 and €500, although students want more.

The minister is also pushing for immediate relief for families and wants a cut to take effect for 2022/23 under the special living expenses package to be presented alongside the 2023 budget.

While €500 of savings would cost the students €43 million, a €250 cut would cost €21 million, a €750 cut would cost €64 million and a €1,000 cut would cost €85 million.

Between 80,000 and 85,000 students would receive the full value of a discount and about 3,000 would receive half as they are scholarship holders and their contribution is subsidized by the state.

The figures come in a new paper on the cost of higher education prepared by Mr Harris officials as part of the budget process. Mr Harris said it was “important to stress that these are the options available and do not pre-empt the budget process”.

The analysis outlines a range of options to reduce costs for students and families, in a similar way to how recent tax strategy papers outline different options for tax policy changes.

It is the first of an annual analysis the government has committed to as part of its Funding for the Future plan, which has pledged to increase government investment in higher education while reducing costs for families.

The paper focuses on the €3,000 annual student contribution and other costs, as well as the student grant scheme. Reference is also made to other policy interventions that could be considered in the medium term.

Some changes have already been made to the 2022/23 scholarship program based on recommendations following an independent review.

The Education Options Paper sets out the costs of further relieving families by increasing the number of scholarship recipients and/or increasing scholarship rates.

This year, the qualifying income limits for a scholarship were increased by €1,000 and the paper recommends reviewing this annually. Examples of the costs given include that a further €2,000 increase in the thresholds would benefit 8,800 students, resulting in a cost of €7.5 million.

The paper also cites the rule on the cost of increasing bursary rates for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, with detailed breakdowns of the impact for different categories.

Student grants increased by a flat rate of 200 euros for 2022/23, which has increased the top rate – which is currently paid to the 11,500 most disadvantaged students with a minimum distance to university – to 6,115 euros.

There are other categories, and the largest single group of grant recipients – 17,755 – will receive €3,225 in the coming year. The paper examines what further improvements would cost for 2023/24. Minister Simon Harris is considering a college fee reduction to €3,000 in the forthcoming budget

Fry Electronics Team

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