70,000 students face cut in college grant
ABOUT 70,000 college students are facing a cut in their grants next year.
A reduction of up to 5pc in the third-level maintenance grant is likely to be announced in the Budget, the Irish Independent has learned.
Hard-pressed parents will lose out by an average of €150.
No final decision has yet been made but education sources said last night that a cut is on the cards.
It would be the third year in a row that maintenance grants are cut.
Grants were slashed by 4pc in the last Budget, and by 5pc the previous year.
Meanwhile, families are also facing hikes in student fees for each of the next four years.
The current student contribution of €2,000 will increase by up to €500 next year alone.
The Government has also decided that the student contribution will rise in each of the succeeding three years. The amount has not been determined. The grant cuts will further infuriate students and their families, and deepen divisions between student leaders and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who made a pre- election pledge not to increase college fees.
Mr Quinn would not be drawn on possible Budget changes yesterday and said a number of options were still being considered.
He said he empathised with students -- who held a large protest rally in Dublin on Wednesday -- and wanted to ensure nobody would be prevented from going to college.
Around 44pc of the 160,000 third-level students currently receive maintenance grants to help meet their living costs.
The grant paid to individual students varies from €315 to €6,100. The figure varies according to family income, the number of dependent children in the house, and the distance between home and college.
Most students receiving the payment are on the standard grant of €3,120. A cut of 5pc would mean a reduction of more than €150 in the year.
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) president Gary Redmond said students were being forced out of college by grant cuts and higher charges.
He said they were prepared to "take whatever steps are necessary" to press their point home to the Government and added that the USI is seeking a meeting with the Labour Party.
Colleges are facing an explosion in student numbers with a rise of 30,000 expected to push numbers to 190,000 in 2014, higher than previously estimated.
The Hunt Report on a strategy for third-level education -- published earlier this year -- said colleges would need an extra €500m a year by 2020.
They currently receive €1.2bn from the State and €187m in student contributions.