Assets test for student grants will not go ahead

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has conceded his plans to have capital assets included for student grant applications will not go ahead because of Coalition disagreement.

The proposal has been under fire since the Labour minister announced it in Dec 2011, particularly from farming organisations and Fine Gael TDs concerned about rural voters. The measure was initially estimated to save his department €14 million a year and was due to be introduced by last autumn.

But despite having a review since last year recommending how machinery, property or other assets could be assessed, Mr Quinn failed to win approval.

At the Dáil Education Committee yesterday, he acknowledged the matter would not be going ahead due to Coalition differences on the issue.

His department’s 2014 targets in higher education budget documents under discussion have no reference to the capital assets test proposal, which feature in equivalent material last year.

“There’s no agreement between the two parties in coalition on broadening the basis of the assessment from household income to reserves or savings or capital assets. It’s not part of the Programme for Government and that’s where we are at the moment,” he said.

He added there might be some form of agreement on having assessments like those used for social welfare.

“But in terms of capital assets there is no agreement, despite my own party’s position that we would like to see that happen,” he said.

Mr Quinn told TDs he understands difficulties keeping up morale in education, as his own department has staffing pressures due to increasing workloads, retired staff not being replaced, and a ban on promotions.

He told Sinn Féin education spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien he is aware of concerns about JobBridge internships being used by schools to supplement teacher numbers.

But, he said, the experience newly qualified teachers can gain can allow them make very good money overseas.

“An awful lot of young people are going into teaching so they can emigrate, there’s a worldwide shortage of teachers and they can make a fortune. They can come home with €50,000 cash in three years, they will wipe out their loans and decide what to do then,” he said.

“Anyone has the right to train as a teacher and where they want to go after that, once they paid their taxes, it’s a free country.”


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