Budget 2013 Education: 6,000 to lose up to €1,500 as income levels for grants reduced

More than 6,000 students will lose up to €1,510 each in grant aid next year after cuts to the income limits.

About 5,300 grant recipients are expected to lose amounts ranging from €300 upward, depending on the level of support they would have qualified for this year and how far they live from college. A further 863 who do not get a grant will only have half the €2,500 student contribution paid for them, while over 200 are expected to have to pay the full fee instead of just half from next year.

The losses are the result of a 3% cut to the family incomes below which grants are payable. It will see the threshold for the maximum standard rate of grant reduce from €41,110 to €39,875.

An estimated 1,547 of those getting the full grant are liable to lose either €610 or €1,510, depending on distance between home and college, by falling into the 50% grant category. Another 1,200 who would previously qualify for a 25% grant will get none, although they will still be exempted from the €2,500 fees, which are increasing from €250 as expected.

The Union of Students in Ireland said students and families on the margins have been pushed off a cliff by the Government.

“As with the rest of the budget, the Government has targeted those who cannot afford to be squeezed any further. Coming after the debacle with the Susi system, which has left thousands of students waiting on vital assistance, this is a cruel and unnecessary blow,” said USI president John Logue.

Mr Quinn has not cut the actual grant rates and is leaving income thresholds for the special rate payable to students from lowest-income families unchanged. He said it was regrettable that about 8% of the 80,000 college students getting a grant would be affected, but income limits had not changed for three years even though average wages fell almost 8%.

The €250 increase to the student contribution is to be followed by similar rises over the following three years. This is despite the recent ESRI recommendation to introduce a loan scheme, under which students would begin paying back their college tuition costs once they reach a certain level of earnings after graduation.

Mr Quinn repeated that he wanted to see colleges address duplication of courses and other inefficiencies before looking at how to get extra funding into the system.

In addition to a 2% cut in funding for third level, he is also imposing a €25m cut from their budgets, following revelations by the Comptroller and Auditor General of large cash reserves held by many colleges.

Meanwhile, the minister also commented on claims of plagiarism levelled by 26 lecturers at Institute of Technology Tralee against the college’s governing body chairman. Flan Garvey, a former Fianna Fáil councillor from Clare, is alleged to have plagiarised several sources in a 2008 dissertation for a masters degree at ITT.

“I am concerned, but in the first instance this is a matter that has to be dealt with by the institution involved and by Quality and Qualifications Ireland. I would hope they would be able to move on this as quickly as possible.”

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