North Tipperary Deputy Lowry has stated that he would be vehemently opposed to any changes made by the Government to the Higher Education Grant scheme that assesses eligibility by including farm land or business assets in the means test.
The Independent T.D. for North Tipperary says that any such change would effectively prevent a successful application from anyone from a farming family and will result in many individuals from farming families not being able to proceed to third level education. It would also have a devastating effect on children whose parents are self-employed or own a business. This, is little short of discrimination and is grossly unfair.
“In accordance with stated Labour policy Minister Quinn has instructed the Capital Asset Test Implementation Group to examine the possibility of introducing farming assets in accessing eligibility for the third level grant. This means that the potential value of farm land, buildings or business assets could be taken on board as part of the means test. It is illogical and unfair to assess the grant in this way. The potential value of land has no reflection on the actual income or wealth of any family and indeed this value is only realised by selling the farm or the assets it contains. In fact statistics show that at least 85% of farming families have an income of less than E50,000 per annum. In a bad year, such as the one we are currently having with increased costs, increased animal feed needs and poor weather conditions, this figure drops substantially. The only fair, equitable way of monitoring eligibility for the grant, across all jobs and disciplines, is to look at income.”
“I have been petitioning the Minister on this matter for some months and am hugely disappointed that this easy option is still being considered rather than an actual, detailed analysis of the Grant system. There seems to be some belief that farming families are at an advantage in the grant system or that they are availing of the grant to a high frequency. This is not reflected by the facts. Only 6% of successful grant applicants are from farming backgrounds. I do not think that anyone could call this figure excessive. Strong comments by the Minister in favour of these changes show a snobbery and lack of understanding that is infuriating to farming families. It seems that the Minister thinks that simply owning land or assets equates to being well off and capable of funding third level education. The Minister should look at the reality of the grant system and the real income of farm families rather than his own perceptions and misconceptions.”
“Once again we see that rural Ireland is being scapegoated by this Labour/Fine Gael Government and being made to bear the brunt of all cutbacks or savings that need to be made. Farming families will not accept this discrimination and I stand fully behind them in opposing any move to do so. I am calling on our Government T.D’s to fight for the interests of their constituents and to stand firm in their opposition to this move and to inform the Minister that this change will not be tolerated and the continued targeting of rural life will not be allowed. I am also calling on Minister Coveney stand up for farming interests in this regard,” he said.