The Government has confirmed to Fianna Fáil that it is pressing ahead with changes to the assessment criteria for student grants next year. It means that farm assets will now be included in the means-testing for third level grants.
Fianna Fáil raised the matter in the Dáil last week, describing the changes as ‘highly discriminatory’, and appealed to the Government to reconsider.
Kerry Senator Mark Daly explained, “This will push third level education out of the reach of so many farming and self-employed families across Kerry. The plan unfairly targets the farming community, as farming families will soon be assessed on a notional value of their land as well as on their income. The result will be a totally inflated view of each family’s wealth, pushing them beyond the criteria for a student grant.
“It is deeply disappointing that Fine Gael and Labour refuse to recognise the serious impact that this will have on farming families and plan to go ahead with these changes next year. This is effectively a further cut in student grants targeted at farming and self-employed families. It will put many farming families in a position where they must decide whether or not to sell some of their land, which may not be generating income, in order to fund their children through college.
“The system should be based on one’s real income, not on a notional value of an asset. Regardless of an individual’s background his or her income is based on the returns submitted to the Revenue Commissioners. This is the only fair and equitable method of assessing income, and it is the approach taken in respect of PAYE workers. I do not accept that we can have a different set of rules for farmers and the self-employed.
“I intend to continue my strong opposition to these grant changes. In my view this is yet another example of the Government’s unfair and unbalanced education policies, exposing its complete lack of understanding of the needs of families in more rural communities.”