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Student Support Schemes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 17 November 2020

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Ceisteanna (639)

Brendan Griffin

Ceist:

639. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the financial assistance available to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36148/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the relevant grant awarding authority.

One of the criteria in the student grant scheme relates to 'progression'. This means that a student must be moving from year to year within a course, having successfully completed the previous year or be transferring from one course to another, where the award for the subsequent course is of a higher level than the previous course. The objective of this policy is to help as many students as possible to obtain one qualification at each level of study. I understand from the details supplied that the student in question already holds a Level 8 and a Level 9 qualification. If an individual already holds a qualification, s/he is not eligible for funding at the same level again.

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter in the first instance for the grant awarding authority, Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI).  If the person to whom the Deputy refers is ineligible for a SUSI grant then there are some other options which could be pursued.

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, the Deputy will be aware that in July I announced a funding package of €168m for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF assists students in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation. 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. 

The €168m funding package also includes €15m in IT equipment grants for disadvantaged students in further and higher education and a €10m access support package for higher education students. An additional €3m has also been provided for investment in supports for mental health services and well-being initiatives.

As announced as part of Budget 2021 we will provide financial assistance through a once off €50 million fund for students to mitigate against the impacts of the changed learning environment. My officials and I are developing the process on how this once-off fund will operate for submission to Government prior to commencement. Further details will be available for student shortly.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

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