Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (458)

Carol Nolan


458. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase investment in SUSI grants in terms of adjacent, non-adjacent and postgraduate rates to alleviate the financial hardship of students from low-income families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32156/19]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to increase financial supports for postgraduate students with a particular focus on those from low income households.

As the Deputy will be aware, additional funding of €7m was secured in Budgets 2017 and 2018 to facilitate the reinstatement of full maintenance grants from September 2017, for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students. This benefitted circa 1,000 postgraduate students who met the eligibility criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant and reversed the budgetary cut that was imposed on this cohort of students in 2012.

Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.

The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.

The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.

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. 

Tax relief also is available on tuition fees. Details in relation to this relief are available from the Revenue Commissioners at www.revenue.ie

The Deputy will appreciate that there are a large number of competing demands for available funding. Decisions with regard to Budget 2020 will be announced on Budget day.