Written Answers. - Third Level Fees.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

39 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will review the current third level education grant scheme with a view to accommodating married people under 23 who are living independently of their parents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21696/02]

My Department funds three means-tested maintenance grant schemes for third level education students in respect of attendance on approved courses in approved third level institutions: the higher education grants scheme; the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme; and the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees.

My Department's higher education grant schemes operate under the Local Authorities (Higher Education Grants) Acts, 1968 to 1992. Under these Acts, a mature student is defined as a person of not less than 23 years of age on 1 January in the year of entry to an approved third level institution. The Acts further provide, inter alia, for the making of grants to mature students whose means and those of their parents, where the mature students are dependent on their parents do not exceed prescribed limits.

Under the terms of the higher education grants schemes, mature students are categorised as either independent mature students or mature students dependent on parents. An independent mature student is defined to mean a mature student who was not ordinarily resident at home with his or her parents from the October preceding their entry to an approved course. Independent mature students are assessed without reference to either their parents income or address.

Similar provisions apply in relation to the vocational education committees' scholarship scheme and the third level maintenance grants scheme for trainees.

A reduction in the age threshold defining mature student status under my Department's maintenance grants schemes would have to be considered in the light of available financial resources and other competing demands in the education sector. There are no plans at present to change the eligibility criteria in this regard.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 23.