Deputy Michael Lowry has slammed the proposals advanced by the Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn T.D. to include farmlands and business assets for assessment in the Student Grant system. The Independent T.D. for Tipperary stated that this move will only serve to ostracise students from these families and will result in an automatic exclusion from grant aid for students whose parents are self-employed or farming. This Deputy Lowry stated is unfair, inequitable and shows a complete lack of understanding of farming and business assets.
Deputy Lowry stated; “It is my belief that the only fair way of assessing the Student Grant is on the income. Including a capital asset test is completely illogical as the value of these assets can only be realised by liquidating the asset which will in turn undermine the very viability of the farming enterprise or business.”
“There seems to be some belief that farming families or students whose parents are self-employed 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 business 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.”
“Students from farming families or business families must meet the same stringent requirements as all other applicants. To say that they can hide assets in their applications is quite simply a falsehood. The reality is that the incomes of farming families and indeed of many businesses have plummeted over the past number of years. In particular 2012 has been a devastating year for farmers with many barely being able to keep their heads above water. Driving forward this change will, in many real instances, result in students from these families not being able to proceed to third level education.”
“I believe that all of our young adults should have equal access to the grant system to allow them an equal opportunity of progressing to third level education. It is not acceptable to introduce changes that effectively estop a huge portion of theseyoung adults for even being considered simply because they come from a farming orbusiness family.”
“Furthermore the SUSI system is in chaos at present and now the Minister is advocating including a 5 year background check on all farmers and business owners.