Third level students and their families are to be penalised to the tune of thousands of euro every year if they live within 45km of their place of education.
This is the view of Labour councillor Niall McNelis, who said the cut to the maintenance grant, announced in last week’s budget, is one of the “new booby traps” the outgoing Fianna Fáil Government has “placed in the in-box of the next government” as the measure will not come into force until 2011.
The qualifying criteria for the ‘non-adjacent’ rate of student maintenance grant has been extended from 24km to 45km, which will result in some 25,000 families being hit by what amounts to a 60 per cent cut in student maintenance payments.
“This means that there is now a major disincentive to students from the natural hinterland of a college to actually apply to study there,” said Cllr McNelis. “The Education Minister Mary Coughlan has effectively created a 90km exclusion zone around third level institutions.”
Cllr McNelis said he has talked with students in NUI Galway and the GMIT who are “very worried about this”.
“The covert and vindictive way in which this measure was buried in the small print on Tuesday,” he said, “is indicative of the deceptive manner in which the budget was presented.”