How the system works
STUDENT maintenance grants are intended to help those from less well-off families with their living costs while in college.
Students are assessed on the family income for the previous year, and the economic downturn has seen an increase in the numbers qualifying.
Controversially, reckoning for eligibility for a grant does not take account of assets.
Farmers and the self-employed have been seen to benefit disproportionately from the scheme when compared with PAYE families.
A self-employed person or a farmer can reduce the amount of income to be taken into the reckoning by making a big capital investment in the year before applying for a grant.
A report in the early 1990s recommended that account be taken of assets when calculating eligibility for the maintenance grant, but no action was ever taken on that.
The grants range in value from €315 to €6,100 for the year, depending on family income, the number of dependent children and the distance between family home and college.
Students living more than 45km from college qualify for a higher grant payment than those living at home.
A student qualifies for the full, standard grant of €3,120 if from a household with a maximum income of €41,110, where there are fewer than four dependent children and whose home is more than 45km away from college.
Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds get a top-up on the standard grant, and may be eligible for the highest rate of €6,100.
Those who qualify for a grant also have the current €2,000 a year college charge paid on their behalf by the Government.
However, they may liable for any extra charges, such as student centre levies.
A recent survey conducted by Dublin Institute of Technology's Office of Campus Life found the cost of a student living away from home for four years is €30,764.