The Report of the Action Group on Access to Third Level Education made detailed recommendations concerning the introduction of special rates of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students.
The target group of "those most in need" was defined in terms of the dependants of people receiving long-term welfare payments, where the necessary conditions are fulfilled. Thence, the income threshold for the special rate of grant is aligned with the highest rate of social welfare support for the Old Age (Contributory) Pension. For the 2019/20 scheme, the threshold was increased from €23,500 to €24,000 to reflect the Budget 2018 increases in the Old Age Pension.
The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for SUSI to determine. In assessing an application for the 2019/20 academic year, SUSI will have regard to the following qualifying criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant:
1. The student must qualify for the standard rate of grant;
2. Total reckonable income, after income disregards and Child Dependant Increase(s) are excluded, must not exceed €24,000;
3. As at 31st of December 2018, the reckonable income must include one of the eligible long-term social welfare payments prescribed in the Student Grant Scheme.
Whilst a student may not eligible for the special rate of maintenance grant, s/he may still qualify for other grant supports.
Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.