Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Michael Ring

Question:

894 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes announced in the recent budget regarding maintenance grants for mature students attending third level education centres. [1009/99]

Michael Ring

Question:

895 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Education and Science the changes announced regarding third level students living within the 15 mile limit in relation to the amount of grant funds awarded. [1010/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 894 and 895 together.

Under the terms of the student support schemes, the rate of maintenance grant payable is determined by reference to the distance from the student's normal residence to the college which s/he is attending.

In the case of independent mature students, normal residence is defined as the address of the candidate while in attendance at college. If this address is 15 miles or less from the college which s/he is attending, the adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable. If the address is more that 15 miles from college, the non-adjacent rate of grant is payable.

However, where an independent mature student can produce supporting evidence that s/he is maintaining a residence other than his/her address while attending college, it will be open to the awarding authority to regard that address as the candidate's normal residence. I previously indicated my concern about mature students generally and independent mature students in particular in regard to the rate of grant payable.

As part of my plans to tackle educational disadvantage at third level, I recently announced total additional funding of £6.9 million to be allocated over the next two years to address such issues. Included in this allocation is provision of £2.4 million to fund an extension of the maintenance grants schemes so that all eligible mature students will now qualify for the higher non-adjacent rate of grant.

The new arrangements will be provided for in the context of the 1999 student support schemes, which will be available later in the year.