The Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has again refused to rule out cuts to the third level grants available to students from farming families, according to Fianna Fáil TD for Louth Seamus Kirk.
In response to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Kirk, Minister Quinn signalled that farming families will not be protected from his plans to change to the assessment for third level grants.
Deputy Kirk commented, “It is quite clear that Ruairí Quinn is perusing an agenda that takes little or no account of the needs of rural communities. Speaking to the Farmer’s Journal last month, Minister Quinn said that he plans to change the means testing for student grants, and that farm assets will now be included:
“There are a lot of anomalies in the system and I believe it needs to be sorted out…An assessment of income for self employed people and farmers would have regard to the assets that they are using as part of their business…no decision has been made about how this is going to work. We’re standardising it this year.” (Ruairi Quinn, Irish Farmer’s Journal,23rd June 2011)
 “Minister Quinn first signalled his intention to reform the grant system in an interview on Newstalk in March, during which he accused farming families and the self-employed of manipulating their incomes to secure third level grants:
“I am reforming the way in which the student grants is going to operate … Up until now there has been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community who were able to quite frankly manipulate their income in a manner in which they could, or their children could, avail of grants” – Education Minister Ruairí Quinn, Newstalk Breakfast, 31 March 2011
Deputy Kirk continued, “A worrying pattern has developed with this Government’s education policies. The threat of rural school closures remains, and it seems that the third level grant system will also be changed in a way that will discriminate against the agricultural community and the self-employed.
“There are many families in Co Louth who are extremely worried about how they will afford third level education for their children. I am urging Minister Quinn not to discriminate against agricultural communities when restructuring the grants system,” concluded Deputy Kirk.