Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Dáil Éireann Debate
524. Deputy Phil Hogan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills if she will review the conditions for grant assistance for mature students at third level in view of recent budgetary changes; and if she will outline the assistance that is available for second chance education with particular reference to institutes of technology; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23445/10]
Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Coughlan): From September 2010, as announced in the Budget, all new applicants including mature students, who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance for all schemes and the VTOS allowances for those pursuing PLC courses, will be ineligible for student maintenance grants. The cost of the student services charge and any fees payable to colleges will continue to be met, for eligible students, by the Exchequer on their behalf. They should apply to their assessing authority to have their eligibility assessed.
Students currently in receipt of the BTEA or VTOS allowances and the maintenance grant will continue to be eligible for both payments for the duration of their current course, provided they continue to meet the terms and conditions of the scheme. Students progressing to a new course, with effect from 2010/11, will no longer be eligible for student maintenance grants but can apply for assistance towards the cost of the student services charge and any fees payable.
Students who qualify for maintenance grants will continue to receive substantial grant funding, together with full support for payment of the student service charge. Those on particularly low incomes will also continue to receive a “top-up” in the special rate of maintenance grant.
Under the student grant schemes all mature candidates, if approved, are automatically provided with the higher non-adjacent rate of maintenance which, this year, ranges from €810 to €6,355 depending on individual circumstances. The entitlement to the non-adjacent rate applies regardless of how far the college is from the mature candidate’s residence and whether or not the candidate is dependent on or independent of his/her parent(s) or guardian(s).
There is a growing number of second chance students entering higher education. The numbers entering higher education from further education have increased substantially in recent years, up from 2.7% of entrants in 2005 to over 10% in 2008.
In addition, revised criteria for the 2010 grant schemes require that the duration of the break in studies required for re-entry as a mature candidate has been increased from one year to three years, providing for greater targeting of support to genuine mature students.
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