Sinn Féin spokesperson for Further and Higher Education Rose Conway-Walsh TD has accused the government of misleading students over double fees.
Teachta Conway-Walsh was referring to the financial implications for students when they accepted a CAO offer last September if they planned to sit the exam in November, in the hope of getting a higher place course.
The Mayo TD said:
“Students have been misled by the government and now find themselves being forced to pay an additional €3,000 to follow the course they should have been accepted onto in the first place.
“The State Examination Commission released a statement last year stating that’If a candidate who has started first year of a course becomes entitled to a higher CAO offer […] attendance for the first year on the new course would remain eligible for free fees and SUSI funding as appropriate’.
“This was then widely reported in the media as meaning there would be no financial penalties for students if they accept their CAO offer and sit the exam in November to try and get one of their preferred options.
“No Minister or government official came out to clarify these media reports. Students based their decision to accept the CAO offer based on the information that was publicly available.
“A number of students have come to me shocked that they have to pay full-fees for the first year of both courses. This is even though many would have left the course once they received their higher offer.
“550 students received a higher offer after sitting the leaving cert in November. Many of them had already accepted a lower CAO offer because they assumed there would be no financial penalty.
“I have had it confirmed to me from Minister Harris that these students are now expected to pay fees of €3,000 for both years.
“The government are claiming that €3,000 are not in fact fees. And that students are technically receiving free fees.
“By any reasonable definition €3,000 are fees. They are in fact the highest fees in the EU.
“It is too late in the day for the government to be coming out with these technicalities. If this was the case the government should have clarified this when media outlets were stating student would face not financial penalty.
“The Minister needs to come out and explain why this was not done and why his department was not up front with students and their families.”