CASH-STRAPPED parents of students attending Trinity College will be able to take out a special loan to pay off their college fees this autumn.
For the first time an Irish university -- in conjunction with Bank of Ireland -- has established a student loan programme to cover the €2,250 annual Student Contribution Charge for undergraduates, which is set to rise to €3,000 by 2015.
Repayments -- at an initial interest rate of 5.1pc APR -- will set parents or guardians back €100 a month in total repayments for the duration of their studies.
If the loan is not paid back by the time the student graduates, the interest rate will climb to 9.7pc APR for an additional three years.
Trinity College Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said the "TCD Finance" initiative should help struggling families cope with the college costs.
"Trinity is conscious of the difficulties faced by students and their families in financing a university education as a result of the current economic downturn, coupled with the increases in the cost of the Student Contribution Charge," he said.
"This initiative is the first of its kind offered by an Irish university and it is hoped to help students access a quality education at Trinity."
Last night, student union president Rory Dunne said the loan scheme -- which was devised in part by the student union -- was needed to enable students and their parents to cope with "sustained increases" in student fees.
The loan scheme is a welcome option for students who may otherwise not be able to afford to attend or continue third-level education, he said.
But because it is only available to the parents or guardians of students, the scheme isn't an option for those under the age of 23 who are autonomous from their parents, Mr Dunne said.
A bank spokeswoman said it is currently in negotiations with other third-level institutions with a view to extending the student loan programme nationwide ahead of the 2012/2013 academic year this autumn.
Journalist: Allison Bray