Calleary slams proposed changes to third level grant system

Mayo Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary has repeated a call on the Education Minister to reconsider proposed changes to the third level grant system that will discriminate against thousands of farmers and self employed workers across the west.

Minister Ruairí Quinn has confirmed to Fianna Fáil that proposals to include capital assets in the means-testing for third level grants are at an advanced stage.

Deputy Calleary described it as a retrograde step that will put third level education out of the reach of hundreds of Mayo families.

“If it goes ahead, this policy will discriminate against hundreds of farming families and self employed workers in Mayo who are on low incomes and are dependent on state support to send their children to college,” said Deputy Calleary.

“The fairest way to assess eligibility for third level grants is based on income and not on the notional value of productive assets. There are so many families in Mayo who have land or a business that is earning very little in the current climate and their low income means they are struggling financially. Including their capital assets in the means-testing for grants will give an inflated impression of their earnings and put them in an extremely difficult situation when it comes to third level costs.

“There is no doubt that this policy will put third level education out of the reach of many younger people from farming or self-employed backgrounds. The long-term economic and social effects of this for Mayo and for rural Ireland are considerable. I am pleading with the Minister to put a stop to this immediately,” concluded Deputy Calleary.

Meanwhile, IFA president John Bryan said productive assets such as farmland cannot be factored into the assessment of income for the purpose of third-level maintenance grants. He said, “These assets are required by self-employed businesses to generate income and are not a measure of additional ability to pay.

“At a recent meeting, the Minister assured us of his understanding, and that of the committee drawing up the report, of IFA’s concerns about the treatment of productive assets. It was also recognised that there is a clear distinction between productive and ‘non-productive’ assets and this will be reflected in any proposals to amend the maintenance grant system.”

Mr Bryan concluded, “The Minister and the review group have a responsibility to ensure whatever changes are brought in do not restrict low-income families from any sector from access to third-level education.”

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