IFA President, John Bryan, has rejected outright any move to include productive assets, such as farmland, in the assessment of third level maintenance grants. The IFA President warned that the farming community would not tolerate any changes which would result in children from low income farm families being excluded from third level grants.
He said, “Any report that would come up with such a proposal would show a complete bias against farmers and other self-employed”.
Mr Bryan continued, “Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, is in no doubt about IFA’s position on this issue. At a meeting with the Minister earlier this year, we made it clear that productive assets, such as farmland, are required by self-employed businesses to generate income and are not a measure of additional ability to pay. This means that farmland and other productive assets cannot form any part of a fair means assessment”.
IFA Farm Business Chairman, Tom Doyle, has said that there is a serious misconception about the current assessment system for third level education grants which must be removed. Contrary to some reports, large capital outlays, such as the purchase of farm machinery, cannot be used to bring income below the grant thresholds.
He pointed out, “The existing system already penalises farmers and other self-employed by disallowing a number of legitimate expenses in the calculation of income for the means test. This includes capital allowances, lease payments, stock relief and interest on borrowing for capital purposes.
Mr Bryan concluded, “The Minister must ensure that whatever changes are introduced to the maintenance grants system do not restrict low-income families from any sector from access to third-level education.”