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Students protest over planned changes to grants

Students demonstrating outside the education ministry. The banner says 'Let us study'

By Evie Andreou

Around two hundred university students gathered outside the education ministry on Tuesday afternoon to protest against a proposed bill to change eligibility criteria for student grants.

The protest, organised by members of the Student Association of Tepak, AKEL student branch Proodeftiki and the student association of the Higher Hotel Institute, took place despite the fact that the education minister Costas Kadis had announced on Friday that he will freeze the bill, after admitting the threshold was low.

While in the past the state would give up to €2,550 to each student, with an additional €850 if the student came from a large family, restrictions were put in place to exclude students from wealthy families.

According to the proposed bill, for a student to be eligible for the grant, the value of their family’s property should not exceed €500,000. Currently the property value threshold is set at €1.2m

The student unions argue that the proposed legislation would deprive grants to hundreds of students because their families own land.

“Low income families, or with one of two unemployed members that have property exceeding the new low threshold, will be left without any state aid for their children’s education,” Proodeftiki said.

The students also object to the discontinuation of the student package, aid given to needy students in the form of rent subsidies, food stamps, or aid to buy text books and laptops.

“The education ministry within a single night and without any dialogue tabled before the parliament a monstrosity of a bill which once more victimises the young generation,” said head of Tepak students, Michalis Pingos.

“As students we are not begging but demanding the right to education,” said the head of the hotel school students Constantinos Evgeniou.

Commenting on the protest, Kadis argued that this is the first time for years that student grants have not been reduced but remain stable and that the goal is to give money where it is needed most.

“I don’t believe there’s anyone who wants money to be given indiscriminately to millionaires the same way it is given to a needy student… another intention is to also give the corresponding amount from the student package to Cypriot students studying abroad,” Kadis said.

He said the protest was politically motivated and he will meet the Cyprus Students Union on Friday to discuss the bill.

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