Farm assets are back in the firing line as fresh third level grants row erupts
Plans to include capital assets such as farmland in means-testing for third level grants will put college education out of reach of the children of farmers and agricultural workers, former agriculture minister Brendan Smith has warned.
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn has confirmed that a report from the Capital Asset Implementation Group, due next month, will include proposals on the inclusion of capital assets in means-testing of students applying for grants in the 2013/2014 academic year.
Mr Smith described the decision to include capital assets as a damaging move that would discriminate against thousands of farmers and self-employed workers and have long-term economic and social effects.
"Including their capital assets in the means-testing for grants will give an inflated impression of their earnings, and will put farming families in an extremely difficult situation when it comes to third level costs," Deputy Smith said.
Farm organisations have reacted angrily to the proposals, insisting that farmland should be classed as a productive tool and not a capital asset.
The most recent figures from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) show that in 2010, 8.9pc of new students were from a farming background.
Children of farmers accounted for 39.7pc of third level grant payments. Almost 64pc of children of agricultural workers, whose incomes are lower than farmers, received a grant that year.
ICMSA taxation chairman Lorcan McCabe said farm families were worried that Minister Quinn had not fully grasped the critical distinction between the 'tools' of the farmer's trade and an easy-to-liquidate asset.