More than 70 third level students from the Carrick-on-Suir area have suffered a drastic 60% cut in their Higher Education Grants due to changes to the scheme introduced at the beginning of the year.
That’s according to Carrick-on-Suir’s new Labour county councillor Bobby Fitzgerald, who has begun a campaign to persuade Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to reverse the change to the distance from college criteria that has slashed the level of maintenance grants these Waterford Institute of Technology students qualify to receive.
Under the reform, the previous Government increased the distance one must live from a third level college to qualify for the maximum maintenance grant from 24km to 45km.
This meant that students from Carrick-on-Suir and its surrounding areas attending WIT, who previously qualified for the full maintenance grant, now only qualify for the lower “adjacent rate”, which is 60% less.
This represents a drop in their maintenance grant from €6,100 per annum to €2,445 per annum.
Cllr Fitzgerald, who was co-opted onto South Tipperary Co. Council this month to replace Sen. Denis Landy, said the distance change in the Higher Education Grants Scheme was putting both students and their families under pressure during these difficult times.
He told The Nationalist that he intends tabling a motion before the next meeting of the Co. Council in September to highlight the issue.
Cllr Fitzgerald and Sen. Denis Landy also plan to lobby Minister Quinn directly to reverse the decision or alternatively implement a fairer system for all.
“The recent changes are counter productive as it will force more students to seek employment or a number of jobs to make ends meet which will further pressurise the already suffering jobs market.
“It will lead to exam failure and extended periods in college for repeats, etc, which basically pushes the cost of our education system up further.
“Education is vital to ensure that an individual can better themselves irrespective of their family backgrounds and this recent change is denying people an opportunity to receive third level education,” he claimed.