Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills, Charlie McConalogue TD, has called on the Education Minister to end the speculation surrounding his plans to proceed with changes to the third level grant systems for farmers and self employed workers.
Minister Ruairí Quinn previously confirmed that plans to include capital assets in the means-testing for third level grants are at an advanced stage.
Deputy McConalogue commented: “Minister Quinn confirmed in May there are plans to include capital assets in means testing for third level grants. Since then we have heard nothing and the Minister’s silence on this is deafening. As the number of opposition voices to these plans grows, including many on the Government backbenches, Minister Quinn's refusal to comment is leading self employed and farming families to the logical conclusion that he has determined to go down this road.
“He needs to immediately clarify what his intentions are, the college year is due to get underway very soon and students deserve to have the reassurance that they will not end up losing the grant. If the Minister’s mooted plans were to be implemented, many students from farming and self employed backgrounds, would have to review whether they could afford to complete their third level education.
“It is a retrograde step to include capital assets in any means testing for these grants. The true test of whether someone is eligible for a grant has to be their income, not the notional value of assets. If Minister Quinn proceeds with this policy, it would discriminate against farming families and self employed workers on low incomes who are dependent on state support to send their children to college.
“There are many families who have land or a business that are earning very little in the current climate, and their low income means they are struggling financially.
“There is no doubt that this policy will put third level education out of the reach of many younger people from self-employed and farming backgrounds. The long-term economic and social effects of this are considerable. The Minister needs to move to end the speculation on the Governments position on this as families have to prepare for the upcoming academic year.”