Offaly students in dark over third level grant changes

A local TD has hit out at the Government for planned changes to third level grant system that will penalise students from families with farms or small businesses.

A local TD has hit out at the Government for planned changes to third level grant system that will penalise students from families with farms or small businesses.

Fianna Fail’s Deputy Barry Cowen said many students across Co Offaly are extremely worried about how they will afford college, as the Government plans to include farming assets and small businesses in the means-testing for third level grants.

“Students in Offaly who have received their third level offers this week are still in the dark about whether or not they will be eligible for a grant. How can they be expected to make decisions about their future when they don’t know if the Government will pull the rug from under them when it comes to grant support?

“Minister Ruairí Quinn confirmed in May that the Government was examining including capital assets in the means-testing for third level grants. Since then we have heard nothing but contradicting statements from Government members, leading to confusion for many families.

“Families who are doing their best to ensure the best possible education for their children need supported, not punished, by the Government.There are many farming families in Offaly who may have land but are on extremely low incomes. Meanwhile many small business owners and self-employed workers are experiencing severe difficulties as costs remain high and consumer sentiment remains weak. Now the Government is threatening to include this capital as part of the assessment for third level grants.

“I am calling on Minister Quinn to do the right thing, and take this off the table completely. At the very least and as a matter of urgency the Minister must clarify that students will be able to apply for grants this year in advance of any changes and that the college-cycle will be taken into account in any changes he proposes. This would avoid a student getting a grant this year and starting college only to find the support is scrapped next year. However I would stress that the Minister should simply abandon his plans to target students from low income families in this way.

“At a time when we’re encouraging everyone to increase their education and skills-base to give the younger generation every chance at a securing jobs here into the future, the Government should not be throwing up barriers for students and their families.”