Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

Question:

987 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the financial support that exists for students who wish to pursue a full-time course in a private dance college where those in question do not receive a grant from their relevant local authority under the education grant section or from the application of the Arts Act, 1973; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19373/00]

The higher education grants scheme operates under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. An approved institution is defined to mean a university, university college or other institution of higher education in so far as it provides a course or courses of not less than two years duration, being a course or courses which the Minister for Education and Science approves for the time being for the purposes of the Acts.

Each year, the higher education grants scheme specifies a list of approved institutions for the purposes of the scheme. The approved institutions mainly comprise publicly funded third level institutions. Any extension to the scope of the grants scheme to include private colleges can be considered only in the light of available resources and in the context of competing demands within the education sector.

While the Deputy has not provided details of the course or the private dance college in question, I would point out that the Finance Act, 1995, provides for tax relief on tuition fees paid by students who are attending certain private third level colleges. Such students or their parents, as appropriate, can avail of tax relief, at the standard rate, on tuition fees paid in respect of full-time undergraduate courses of at least two years duration in such colleges, provided that both the college and the course satisfy the prescribed codes of standards and are approved by the Minister for Education and Science.

The Finance Act, 1996, provides for tax relief, at the standard rate, for tuition fees paid in respect of approved part-time undergraduate courses in approved private colleges. In addition, the Finance Act, 2000, provides tax relief for fees paid in respect of approved postgraduate courses, including courses in approved private third level colleges.