Date Uploaded: 13/07/2016
Move would include farm land and other assets when considering grant approval
Families could face a controversial new capital asset test under reforms aimed at making the student grants system fairer.
The proposal, contained in the Cassells report on funding higher education published this week, is likely to face opposition among farmers and other groups who may have low declared incomes but significant assets.
The Cassells report states the grants system only considers income and takes no account of capital, assets or accumulated wealth.
“The current model of student support maintenance grants should continue and should be enhanced to better reflect the real costs of participation, and better targeted by taking account of capital assets and accumulated wealth,” the report states.
A 2012 study by the Higher Education Authority showed 40 per cent of farmers and close to 50 per cent of self-employed people secured a college grant for their children.
This compared to 17 per cent in families headed by a “lower professional” and 10 per cent by a “higher professional”.
Fine Gael has committed to debating the report’s proposals in an Oireachtas committee, while Fianna Fáil says overall grants should be improved but is not advocating wider changes.
The Cassells blueprint overall proposes three options for funding the higher education system, including an income-contingent student loan scheme.
Former minister for education Ruairí Quinn drew up proposals during the last government which would have seen assets above a certain threshold considered in means-testing.
However, Mr Quinn’s plans were scrapped following strong criticism by farming groups, while a number of Fine Gael TDs also publicly criticised Quinn’s plan.
Journalist: Carl O'Brien