I thank the Deputy for the important question on SUSI grant schemes and their real value. I suggest that I provide him with some of the information in tabular form to assist with the discussion this evening.
As part of budget 2022, a budget of the three-party Government, we announced the first major changes to the student grant scheme rates and eligibility. These include an increase to the standard and special rates of maintenance, which have not increased in over a decade. These changes will take effect in the 2022–23 academic year. This has allowed us to make what I believe is early progress in addressing what we expect will be some of the themes emerging from the review of the student grant scheme due next month. This includes trying to ensure that the scheme keeps pace with changes in the economy, people’s earnings and changes in the cost of living.
The package we announced is provided for in the budget. It will include an additional €15 million for expenditure next year and around €33 million in full-year costs to enhance the financial supports under the student grant scheme. For the academic year 2022–23, this will mean an increase in all student grant maintenance payments, including the special rate of grant, of €200 per year. This will benefit approximately 62,000 students.
Importantly, the income threshold to qualify for the standard rate of student grant has been increased by €1,000. This is important because income thresholds have not been touched in a decade. The qualifying distance criterion for students to qualify for the non-adjacency rate of grant, which affects the Deputy’s constituents, has been reduced from 45 km to 30 km, effective from the start of the 2022–23 academic year. We have prioritised these changes for the 2022–23 academic year and they will benefit thousands of students, building on the improvements we made last year in respect of the postgraduate student supports. In this regard, we increased the postgraduate fee grant from €2,000 to €3,500 and the income threshold for postgraduate students from €31,500 to €54,240. We had not increased the rates before that. If I were to read out the rates, we would note they were static for a decade until we made these changes.