I refer the Deputy to my announcement on 25 May 2003 in relation to a new package of measures costing €42 million in a full year which will benefit students in further and higher education in the 2003-04 academic year. This package combines substantial improvements in the level and coverage of the maintenance grant for those on low to moderate incomes, with increases in the level of top-up grant for those who are most disadvantaged. The key elements of the package are as follows: increasing grant levels by 15%; extending the thresholds and increasing the gradations where there are less than four dependent children as follows: €0 to €32,000 for full grant; €32,000 to €34,000 for 75% grant; €34,000 to €36,000 for half grant; €36,000 to €38,000 for 25% grant; increasing the amount of the top-up grant to the maximum personal rate of unemployment assistance, which, it is estimated, will benefit in excess of 7,500 students; and extending the threshold for the €670 student service charge from €36,897 to €40,000, ensuring that a significantly higher number of students from households with moderate incomes will not have to pay the €670 student service charge.
The maintenance grant schemes are being finalised taking account, where appropriate, the elements of the above package. I expect that the schemes will issue to the awarding bodies in the near future.