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Students call for dialogue over new grants’ system

By Evie Andreou

Tertiary student body POFEN said on Tuesday it would not accept the shrinking or abolition of student grants and called for a dialogue before the proposed bill was voted by the plenum.

POEFN said it received the bill following a meeting they had with Education Minister Costas Kadis last month and they expressed their dismay over “the ministry’s perceived notion that the text presented to them is the final draft”.

Kadis announced that the proposed bill would reach parliament soon and that he hoped the new system would be applied from the next academic year.

The new process will involve the creation of a single agency for managing student grants and a new ‘single application’ procedure.

He added that up till now, students have had to fill out three to four different applications of different services to receive the student grant and other allowances, but that procedures will be simplified so that only one application is required.

This will reduce administrative costs, he said, but on top of that, the system will be more efficient and it will target those who need it the most.

“We will not accept the victimisation of any student in the altar of ‘economic recovery’ resulting in disruption of his or her studies,” POFEN said in an announcement.

Despite that the student package is distributed based on economic criteria, it is withheld from a number of students, they said.

They also proposed that grants and the student package return to 2012 levels, and that beneficiaries are issued a card for free medical care, and books and reduced fees for internet connection.

POFEN is asking for a dialogue between the ministry, the student welfare services of universities and state agencies before the bill is tabled to parliament for a vote.

The student body held a number of protests last year following Kadis’ announcement that the ministry was aiming at giving the grants based on economic criteria.

According to the ministry’s annual report, last year around 2,380 students were beneficiaries of the ‘student package’ benefits which includes allowances for rents and purchases of text books and laptops, and meal coupons and were given to students whose families’ per capita annual gross income did not exceed €12,000.

As regards the student grant, for 2014, eligible were students whose family income did not exceed €59,000, regardless of number of children and was given according to socio-economic criteria.

The highest sum, €1,710, was given to students whose family annual income was less than €39,000 and an additional €855 was given if the family had more than three children and/or if the student paid tuition. Students from families with higher income received less money.

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