Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Third Level Grants Bonanza for Some

It's hardly news that big farmers who get welfare cheques from Brussels (one of Ireland's richest beef baron Larry Goodman gets more than €500,000 each year), have also been able to wangle third-level grant support for their children, never mind the potential bonanza that's available from land rezoning.

When I went to UCC, I knew a few farmers' sons on grants who drove to college every day - isn't it great if you can get away with it!

Assets are not taken into account and a little creative accounting can engineer declared income to be below the income threshold.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin has indicated that she is happy with the existing arrangements apart from the administration of the scheme.

At present, the top income limit for grant eligibility, where there are less than four children, is €46,700. Maintenance grants range from €780 to €3,110, depending on declared income.

New figures on grants have been released to Labour Finance spokeswoman Joan Burton T.D., who said that a surprising number of well-off students still qualified for assistance - either through full or partial grants.

The figures show that almost a third of higher education grants are now going to students from managerial, professional and farming backgrounds. That is at least 8,000 out of a total of 26,000.

There are three separate grant schemes with the biggest one run by the local authorities.
The percentage of local authority grant holders coming from these groups has risen by 4% to 28.61%.

The changes recorded from 2002/03 to 2003/04 are as follows:
  • Children of employers and managers - up from 633 to 1,036
  • Children of professionals - up from 1,155 to 1,535
  • Farmers' children - up from 1,669 to 2,067
The position for the two other grant schemes run by the Vocational Education Committees (VECs), show that 3,389 out of 9,384 new grants going to those from managerial, professional and farming backgrounds.

The real figure could be even higher as the authorities are unable to socially categorise about a third of all grant holders.

PAYE workers who find themselves just above the margin to be ineligible for the higher education grants, are the biggest losers.