IFA President John Bryan has said the inclusion of productive assets, such as farmland, in the assessment for 3rd-level education grant eligibility would seriously discriminate against farm families and is totally unacceptable. Mr Bryan said IFA would resist any attempt to use productive assets as part of the qualifying criteria for maintenance grants.
John Bryan said, “Farming is a relatively low-income occupation, where the income derived gives little or no return on the capital value of the asset. In 2010, average farm incomes were less than €17,000, and even the top 30% of farmers had an average farm income of only €35,000. Farm families traditionally have placed a high value on education. However, it is clear from these figures that many could not afford to send their children to third level education without grant assistance.”
Mr Bryan said that already, the existing method of assessment of farm income for the maintenance grant discriminates against farm families by disallowing a number of expenses which are allowed in income tax computation. These disallowances include capital allowances, lease payments, stock relief and interest on borrowing for capital purposes.
Concluding, he said, “Any move to introduce an asset test that includes farmland will deny access to higher education to many students from low-income farm families. The Tanaiste Mary Coughlan must clarify the Government’s position on the issue in the context of the Hunt Report, is it is of huge importance to thousands of farm families across the country.”