The new proposed loan scheme will disproportionately affect those from rural and agricultural backgrounds, according to the Union of Students in Ireland and the Irish Farmers Association, who met last Friday.
Kevin Donoghue, USI President
Commenting on the proposals Kevin Donoghue, USI president said, “Any implementation of the new proposed loan scheme for students would disproportionately affect those from rural and agricultural backgrounds, deter them from applying to college, and widen the gap between urban and rural opportunities. People from rural backgrounds are more likely to be on 3rd level grants and so are more likely to be affected by the new proposals.”
Mr Donoghue added, “Introducing things like asset testing for grants and replacing grant payments with loans will disproportionately affect those in rural backgrounds and farmers. Students from rural and agricultural backgrounds already face higher costs than those who are from urban areas, especially with expenses like accommodation and transportation.”
Commenting on the proposals IFA Farm Business Chairman Tom Doyle said, “The farming community would not tolerate any changes which would result in children from low income farm families being excluded from third level grants.”
There are currently 56 3rd level agricultural courses of offer, covering a range of cutting-edge contemporary technologies and approaches to modern farming in Ireland.
Mr Doyle added, “With a 45% increase in the value of food and drink exports achieved since 2009, Ireland’s agri-food sector has been a driving force of export growth and national economic recovery. The sectors performance and associated increased employment opportunities have resulted in a huge surge in enrolment numbers for agricultural and agri food courses. The Irish government needs to ensure equality of access to third level education for low income farm families to fully deliver on the potential and growth opportunities in the sector.”
The agri-food sector in Ireland contributes a value of €26bn (gross turnover) to the national economy, generates 7.6% of gross value added (GVA), almost 12.3% of Ireland’s exports and provides 8.6% of national employment. Due to low levels of import dependence, and profit repatriation on one hand and high levels of investment in the local economy on the other, the sector provides balanced growth which has been felt throughout the country.