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Wednesday 22 February 2017

Teagasc outlines plans to means-test college grants

Published 07/12/2011 | 06:00

Teagasc is to introduce means-tested maintenance grants for agricultural college students in 2012 as part of a raft of cost-cutting measures.

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The new maintenance grant will replace the traditional system where students were automatically offered residential places at agricultural colleges.

Students who meet the means-testing criteria will be paid a maintenance grant similar to the Vocational Education Committee (VEC) grant.

With the grant money, students can decide to pay for residential accommodation at their college, use it for alternative accommodation or spend it on commuting from home.

Under the means-testing system, the threshold for the maintenance grant will be a total household income of €41,110, including net farm income as per Revenue returns and other income such as PAYE income from a spouse.

The €41,110 threshold will vary depending on the number of dependent children in each household.

Students from households that come under this threshold will receive a grant of around €3,120 for a 28-week college year (equivalent to the VEC rate), while students from households that exceed this threshold will not be eligible for the grant.

The grant will be paid based on a weekly rate of approximately €111.43.

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The grant for college courses of different durations will be adjusted accordingly.

For students living within a 45km radius of the college, a smaller grant will apply. This grant, known as the adjacent rate, will be €44.64 per week.

Grant application forms will be sent to students with their offers of a college place from July 2012 onwards.

This year, residential accommodation was offered at Gurteen, Kildalton, Ballyhaise and Pallaskenry colleges. Residential accommodation has already been phased out of the colleges at the Botanic Gardens, Clonakilty and Mountbellew.

Other measures being adopted by Teagasc include the outsourcing of catering at Kildalton and Ballyhaise colleges. The canteen facilities at these colleges will be run by outside commercial interests from September 2012.

Both the residential and canteen changes are a result of retirement and redundancy schemes offered to Teagasc domestic, farm, administration and technical staff. The schemes were aimed at reducing Teagasc's non-teaching college staff, in line with the Government requirements to reduce staff.

Paddy Browne, Teagasc's head of education, said the move was a fundamental shift away from the traditional model of agricultural education which was based around residential college.

"This brings our colleges into line with the broader higher education system," he said. "Students who qualify for the grant can now make their own decisions on commuting, accommodation and food."

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