Remembering back to 2011 and the Labour Party Manifesto, there is one particularly interesting paragraph on page 60 outlining the party’s position on access to third level education. It reads, “Labour abolished third-level fees in 1995 and we are opposed to their re-introduction. We refuse to go back to the days when only the relatively wealthy could count on going to third level, or when a family could only afford to send one of their children to college”.
Does it not seem strange that against the backdrop of these election pledges, the cost of attending college or university will increase considerably under the guidance of Labour’s Minister for Education, Ruari Quinn? By 2015 the “student contribution charge”, essentially fees in all but name, will have risen to €3000 as outlined in Budget 2013. This will represent an increase of €1000 in student charges under the tenure of Minister Quinn. However this was not the only blow to third level students in budget 2013
The one-off payment, Cost of Education Allowance, valued at €300 for those receiving Back to Education Allowance has been scrapped. Previously this was a valuable resource for recipients in covering the costs associated with third level such as books. Maintenance grant rates remain unchanged as of Budget 2013. However changes to the income threshold level upon which eligibility for a grant is considered, have been reduced by 3%. According to USI this will equate to a reduction in maintenance grant rates for approximately 6,400 students. Against the bleak backdrop of continuous austerity, such measures have and will continue to have a detrimental effect on access to third level education.
If we consider Labour’s position as outlined in their manifesto, it is clear the opposite is actually true. Labour are re-introducing fees through stealth and in coming years, many parents of third level students will be burdened with increasing property taxes and water charges. Given these circumstances and the uncertain financial situation facing many families, it is clear that only the relatively wealthy will be able to count on going to third level.
These measures have stripped Labour of any credibility in government and indeed a sense that they possess any real left wing credentials. Their policies constitute a serious betrayal of the electorate who voted for them. Their vote-winning rhetoric has been replaced with the cold hearted austerity policies of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition driven by the Troika. As a result, students of Ireland are just one more segment of society being asked to pay for the failed speculation of bankers and property developers. The Labour party should be ashamed of themselves.