The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college. The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.
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.
In 2018/19 academic year, 51.8% of maintenance grant holders qualified for the non-adjacent rate and 48.2% for the adjacent rate. The percentage split before the change was 77.9% (non-adjacent rate) and 22.1% (adjacent rate). Assuming that a change to the distance criterion would result in a similar percentage of students qualifying for the higher non-adjacent grant support as existed pre Budget 2011, then the estimated cost would be in the region of €26m.