Fianna Fáil Agricultural Spokesperson, Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, this week raised the issue of Agricultural lands being included as capital assets in new means testing for Third Level Student Grants.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Ó Domhnaill said: “The Government has set up a Capital Asset Test Implementation Group. This has been set up with the absolute intention of changing the criteria for student grants in a way that will certainly discriminate against the children of farm families.
“Under the current grant application system, all farm income is assessed. If the Government goes ahead and assesses the value of the farmland as an income source on its own, this would be totally unfair and amount to double assessment on the same land.
“The myth that all farm families avail of Third Level Grants could not be further from the truth. A Higher Education Authority (HEA) survey completed on 72% of first year students in the 2009/2010 academic year showed that only 8.9% of new students were from farming backgrounds. Furthermore only 39.7% of the children from farmers were in receipt of Higher Education Grants.”
Responding to the issue, Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said that following an agreement by the Government to broaden the current means testing arrangements for student grants by way of inclusion of the value of capital assets, the Minister set up a dedicated implementation group. The group was charged with bringing implementation proposals for new applications from the 2013/14 academic year.
She added that the Minister has received the draft report of the implementation group and is currently reviewing it.
Senator Ó Domhnaill said: “The Government is clearly pressing ahead with plans to ‘doubles access’ students from farm families and self employed households when applying for Third Level Grants. Fianna Fáil are totally opposed to this as it would act as a further deterrent to third level education of a time when education is so important to our economic recovery,” concluded Senator Ó Domhnaill.