Time to debunk the myths about farmers and third level grants
It is that time of year when Leaving Cert students have nominated their preferred third level course and the question of funding college attendance is being gingerly brought up at many a family breakfast table.
There is a general perception about that farmers' children are one of the main beneficiaries of third level education grants and that farmers can easily play the system to secure qualification for their son or daughter.
This is something of an urban myth, it is totally untrue and this is borne out by the fact that less than one in two farm families actually qualify for college grants.
Those who do qualify, do so because average family farm income as measured by the most recent National Farm Survey is €26,974 which falls well within the qualifying limit and not because the system is easily taken advantage of by farmers.
The restrictive manner in which farm income is assessed, coupled with the fact that over 50pc of farmers or their spouses have off farm income is largely the reason that so few farmers' sons or daughters actually qualify for college grants.
Inaccurate headlines such as that published in a prominent Sunday newspaper some time ago along the lines 'My Daddy bought a new combine harvester and I qualified for a college grant' are totally incorrect and do nothing to dispel the aforementioned urban myth.
The cost of third level education for those who are not in a position to commute is currently in the region of €14,000 for an academic year which is set out in the tables.
For those fortunate enough to qualify, the grant will cover close to half of the total cost and while many undoubtedly will qualify, all parents of intending students should check their eligibility particularly in light of the decline in farm incomes experienced by many in 2015.