THE Students' Union in Dundalk IT has condemned the government's slashing of the Non-Adjacent Student Maintenance Grant in Budget 2011, which will cost some local students up to €4,000 annually.
As part of the Budget, only students living a minimum of 45 kilometres away from their college will be eligible for the non-adjacent grant with local Student Union president James Clarke describing it as a "direct attack on the Higher Education of local students".
Before the Budget, all students living outside a radius of 24km from their college were eligible for this grant.
These changes in criteria will cost tens of thousands of rural students an average of €2,000 per year and Clarke said that it would affect many students from rural backgrounds.
He said: "Students from rural backgrounds will be severely affected by this cut, with thousands being hit by an average of €2,000 per year, and some as much as €3,800 per year.
"It is one thing for students to be hit for a couple of hundred euro per year, it is quite another for students to be hit for a couple of thousand euro per year.
"This will simply be fatal to the chances of many students from rural backgrounds being able to get through college.
"Students are already struggling financially in the current recession to meet the costs of going to college. These grant cuts will force many local students to abandon their college courses and will also spell the end of third level education for many potential students in rural Ireland.
"But it is not too late to reverse these changes made by the current Government to the grant. We are asking all local Fine Gael and Labour TDs to raise this issue in their next parliamentary party meeting and stand up for the students of this constituency and the students of Ireland."
Clarke said that as these changes to the grant will not be implemented until June 2011, they will only be implemented by the new government. He is now calling on local Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, his party's education spokesman, to raise the issue at their next parliamentary meeting.