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Irish students brace for fees bonanza - Student Union prepares protest march

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USI leader Gary Redmond
Irish students are bracing for a fees bonanza in the next Budget, as the national students' union prepares a major protest march to show students' disgust at the possibility of further fee hikes.

The protest is being spear-headed by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), and recently won the support of the students union at Trinity, a major boost for the campaign.

Students are disappointed that key education players such as Minister for Education and Skills back-tracked on a pre-election pledge not to raise fees should they accede to power.

Quinn, himself a former students' union leader, announced at a key policy address earlier this year that the current fees' situation was untenable -- a position which he has maintained adamantly since.

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What's untenable for the Department of Finance, however, may prove to be equally so for a large swathe of the student population.

Students unions warn that Irish students are on the brink of not being able to afford a college education, and if the fees hike comes to be as much as is feared (talk of €5,000 has been on the cards for a few weeks), then many students will undoubtedly be unable to afford college next term.

Perhaps un-coincidentally, as Irish Central recently reported thousands of young Irish women are gaining a foot-hold in the sugar-daddying business, many of them students, who are faced with no alternative but to resort to practical prostitution in order to fund their way through college.

The considerable surge of young women joining popular sugar-daddying web locales has even caught the interest of the websites' US bosses, with many tying the meteoric rise in subscriptions from Irish customers with the country's economic demise.

Whether the rise or threatened rise of fees is really forcing Irish students into sugar-daddying or not is debatable, but the fact that it may well be the case is a worrying indication of just how hard any rise in fees is going to be on Irish students.

It may all seem a bit spoiled to American readers used to having to fork out tens of thousands of dollars on getting their kids through college, but for Irish parents more used to planning for Ryanair-style on-the-cheap degrees, any move upwards of the current fees level is going to put a massive strain on their already limited resources.

College has already become more expensive in the last year, and with the economic situation showing little signs of improvement it's just going to get harder and harder for both students and parents alike.

Cuts to the non-adjacent maintenance grant have made college a lot more expensive for many living further from home, while other cuts have created a strain on colleges' own financial resources.

And although the journalist who first circulated the horrible sounding figure of €5,000, Kim Bielenberg, since admitted that the figure was only "hypothetical", if it is indeed the figure that's on the cards it would be very hard on students.

If that level of fees is on the card later this year there may be no telling what's next.
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