I propose to take Questions Nos. 653, 654 and 676 together.
In recognition of the challenges facing full time third level students the Government has approved once off funding of €50m to provide additional financial assistance in this academic year.
The funding, which was provided in Budget 2021, in recognition of the significant challenges they have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic offered financial assistance to all EU full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students attending publicly funded Higher Education Institutions. There are currently no plans to extend this scheme further.
The scheme ensures students;
- Who avail of the SUSI grant, including in Post Leaving Certificate (PLC), receive a €250 top-up in their grant;
- Students who do not avail of the grant but attend publicly funded Higher Education Institutions in the State can reduce by €250 any outstanding student contribution fee payments or receive a €250 credit note for their institution;
The latter option is designed to ensure students who pay the standard €3,000 in registration fees but are not in receipt of SUSI will benefit from the measure. Students on PLC courses do not pay the €3,000 student contribution fee. The only centrally determined payment for the PLC programme is the €200 PLC participant contribution. This amount is not payable by persons with a medical card, as well as a number of other categories.
There are other supports available to PLC students including through the Back to Education Allowance provided by the Department of Social Protection, and the Fund for Student Disabilities. PLC and other Further Education and Training students also benefited from additional Covid supports announced in July, in particular the €15 million technology fund for devices. In addition Budget 2021 provided for a Mitigating Educational Disadvantage Fund worth €8 million managed by SOLAS. This fund provided funds to support educationally disadvantaged learners in accessing and participating in further education and training (FET) including in PLC.