Students in Laois are “horrified at the impact” of the change in distance ruling for grants, says Cllr Mary Sweeney.
Some 60 Laois students attending Carlow IT have had their grant payments cut by almost E2,000, as part of an overhaul of the education grant system.
Cllr Sweeney who is Chairperson of Laois VEC, says some of them have told her they may not be able to finish their courses at all.
“I’ve had numerous complaints, particularly from people completing their third or final years. They’re absolutely horrified at the impact. Some of them are now completely ineligible for a grant. I can’t stress enough how difficult it’s making things. I would plead for a letter to be sent to the department,” she said during last week’s council meeting.
Previously students living more than 24km from their college qualified for a full yearly maintenance grant of E3,120. That has now changed to 45km, meaning students from towns like Portlaoise, Abbeyleix and Durrow who are studying at Carlow IT will have their grant cut to just E1,250.
Cllr Jerry Lodge blamed his own party for the harsh cuts.
“I put my hand up, this is the legacy of a Fianna Fáil administration. I find that it’s counties like Laois that have no third level college who are hit hardest. This is going to compound difficulties for 60 of the 140 from Laois going to Carlow. It’s typical of those who have lost touch with common ordinary people. It’s now time we had a proper third level outreach centre in Laois,” he said.
Cllr Willie Aird couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a sliding scale.
“It’s such a huge dramatic drop, over a couple of inches. There should be a gradual scale. Are people out there not going to be able to go back? I just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
It was agreed to write a letter to the Department of Education to appeal the matter.
The closing date for this year’s grant applications is August 31. Students may apply to Laois VEC for PLC courses or ITs. For all other colleges, apply to Laois County Council. See studentfinance.ie for more information.