Councillors want changes to student grants reversed

Donegal County Council is to write to Minister Ruairí Quinn calling for the non-adjacent student maintenance grant to be fully reinstated.

Donegal County Council is to write to Minister Ruairí Quinn calling for the non-adjacent student maintenance grant to be fully reinstated.

The move follows a debate on the changes to education grants during Monday’s meeting of the council on Monday.

Councillors are concerned that the impact of the changes to qualifying criteria is having on students in the county and expressed fears that students will not be able to embark on education.

Under the proposals in the budget the qualifying criteria was changed from 25km to 44km which means 777 students in Donegal will have their grants cut by up to 60%. Many will lose €4,000 and the council wants the government to reinstate the non-adjacent student grant for students living more than 24km from their college.

During the debate Sinn Féin councillor Marie Therese Gallagher asked whether many students will be able to remain on in education.

Fianna Fáil councillor Patrick McGowan said there would need to be a postponement of the chnages to allow people the time to change arrangements and allow the minister the chance to see the impact the changes will have.

Cllr. David Alcorn said the changes will affect a lot of people. He said it is important that people get their grant applications in immediately and if they have been asked for more information to get it in.

This was echoed by Cllr. Barry O’Neill. He congratulated the Minister or Education for being able to administer a student grant scheme “after inheriting such an abominable situation from the last government”.

Independent councillor Ian McGarvey said it is imperative that any minister recognises the importance of education.

Labour Party councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr asked the students to get the applications in on time. “We are probably lucky the country still has a grant scheme and we should encourage the students and look for it if you need it.”

Sinn Fein councillor Mick Quinn said he knows a man who has lost his job but the rules mean he has to be in receipt of welfare for 391 days to qualify for a grant, yet he has two daughters at university. “Is there anything that can be done by the council for cases like that?” he asked.

His party colleague Jack Murray said the responsibility was on government to restore the grant. “The onus is to have young people educated and retrained to help get us out of this recession,” he said.

Independent councillor Terence Slowey said the minister needs to publish the scheme early for next year so that applications can be mad early.

Director of corporate services Liam Ward said it is fair to say the changes will have an impact on quiet a lot of the council’s applicants.