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Councillor Calls For Students To Apply For Grants

Thurles Town Councillor Gerard Fogarty has congratulated all Leaving Certificate students on their results last week and all those who have received CAO offers so far and called on them to apply for the Student Grant.

In a statement to Thurles.Info this morning, Cllr. Fogarty stated : “The deadline for applications for the Student Maintenance Grant is the 31st of August. I would encourage all students to use the eligibility reckoner on www.studentfinance.ie and fill out the Student Maintenance Grant form online if you might be eligible. If you are not eligible for the maintenance grant in part or whole, you may be entitled to access the Student Assistance Fund.

With the Government considering a major change in student grant policy, students face uncertainty over grants ahead of college. It is hugely unfair that a large number of leaving certificate students and their families continue to face vast uncertainty over changes to third level grants only a few days before they are expected to make a decision on college offers. Students from farming and self-employed families will be expected to make a decision on whether to accept a college place despite not knowing if they will qualify for grants for the duration of their time in college due to the continuing uncertainty over Minister Quinn’s planned changes to the third level grants system particularly regarding assets.

Minister Quinn’s agenda in this regard was made quite clear again this week when figures were released by the HEA showing that 40% of farmers and close to 50% of self employed people secured a college grant for their children. However, what is not mentioned in these figures is that the average farm income continues to be €24,000.

Minister Quinn’s plan, to include capital assets in means testing for grants is wrong. The true test of whether someone is eligible for a grant has to be their income not their assets. Students can’t be expected to make a decision on a college offer when they have no idea if they will qualify for a grant and be able to afford to complete their third level qualification.

Minister Quinn has already put postgraduate education out of reach of thousands of people, latter who don’t have the financial means to pay for it. Unfortunately, we now face a situation where a large number of young people will also be denied access to undergraduate education. With students accepting offers this week, Minister Quinn needs to immediately make clear what his intentions are in regard to third level grants.  At an absolute minimum, the Minister needs to give an assurance in the next few days to this year’s leaving cert students, now awaiting CAO offers, that they will not be facing into a situation whereby they could lose a grant, which is essential to maintaining them in education after just one year at third level.

I have always maintained that the Government must make its budgetary strategy clear for the next 3-5 years, to provide certainty to the economy. If the Government intends to reintroduce third level tuition fees, restrict the grant scheme or increase the student contribution, then they must make their position clear allowing families to budget ahead, if a student is to embark on a 3/4 year course.

I welcome the recent changes to the administration of the student grant system, which now sees applications and payments processed centrally by Student Universal Support Ireland which I hope will ensure the speedy processing of applications and payments. At the start of every college year students face a tough few weeks to pay for their first rent, materials and books.” Councillor Fogarty stated.


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