Trinity College Dublin (TCD), which is ranked as 65th in the top 100 world universities, has launched a new scheme in conjunction with the Bank of Ireland that will help parents cover the cost of the student contribution fee. The scheme is the first of its kind to be offered by an Irish university and is designed to ensure school leavers are able to access quality higher education, by removing a financial obstacle for some to higher education. The student loan programme is designed to help individuals afford the €2,250 annual Student Contribution Charge for undergraduates. Parents will be able to use the TCD Finance initiative to spread the cost of university through payments of €100 per month.
Trinity College Student’s Union worked with the college authorities and Bank of Ireland to develop and implement a financial package that will help alleviate some of the financial pressures faced by students of the college in the present climate and help ensure equality of access in the coming years. The Students’ Union is conscious of the fact that sustained increases in the Student Contribution Charge have led to a rise in the number of prospective students being excluded from third level education. The student contribution charge continues to rise; it is expected reach the figure of €3,000 by 2015.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative, outgoing Student’s Union President Ryan Bartlett, said: ‘This development will help a lot of students who were struggling with the annual increase in the Student Contribution Charge. The Students’ Union is delighted to have worked on an innovative scheme that will maintain access to Trinity College for current and prospective students. The partnership with Bank of Ireland has delivered a creative option to ease the problems of student financing.’
While TCDSU welcomes the new loan scheme, incoming President Rory Dunne has made the point that the union will continue to demand significant contribution by the government to both undergraduate and postgraduate education. ‘There are currently no financial support mechanisms for those under 23 who are autonomous from their parents and the union will continue its fight to ensure full equality of access in all third level institutions.’
Trinity College is a University conscious and mindful of the burdening financial difficulties faced by students and their families in financing a university education in a time of recession. In contrast, many feel that the Government is overlooking the harsh reality of how students are funding this charge and dismissing the students that are denied access to higher level education because they cannot afford this fee.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has written to higher education institutions requesting that they show flexibility and consideration to students awaiting a decision on their grant application and/or payment of grants for the current academic year. The minister of Education, in defence, said that it was at his request that the HEA sent a reminder to institutions requesting that flexibility be shown to students for the next academic year and to request that students be allowed pay the charge in two instalments if required.
As part of this new loan scheme; Parents of Trinity College Dublin students are to be offered low cost loans to cover the contribution fee from this autumn. The bank said it is working with other interested universities to roll out this product for students who are required to pay the full student contribution charge. Loans for the scheme will be offered by Bank of Ireland at a lower rate than standard lending products (5.1 per cent variable APR). Once the student graduates the loan amount increases and reverts to the standard graduate rate of 9.7 per cent variable for three years. In order to qualify parents must meet the standard lending criteria and students are not eligible to apply for the loan. However, the debt will be transferred to the student on graduation, which is probably a welcome relief for parents and guardians!