Monday 22 January 2018

Apply for a grant to help with costs

Mary O'Donnell

The tuition fees of eligible first time undergraduate students on approved courses are automatically paid by the Department of Education and Skills. There are a number of student grant schemes to help eligible students with costs such as maintenance, registration and exam fees, and student services.

Who is entitled to a grant?

Grants are awarded depending on nationality, ordinary residence, family income, the number of dependent children in a family, and the distance of the family home from the college the student will be attending.

The reckonable family income limits may be extended slightly if two or more children (or if the candidate's parents) are attending an approved course of study.

Who are the grant-aiding authorities?

They are the Higher Education Grants (HEG) scheme, Vocational Education Committee (VEC) scholarships, and the TLT (Third Level maintenance grants for Trainees) grants scheme.

The HEG scheme is administered by local authorities, and covers approved courses in universities in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as most courses in universities in Britain or other EU member states. It also covers certain courses in institutes of technology and in certain other colleges both in the Republic and in NI.

The VEC scheme covers courses in institutes of technology, certain courses in NCAD and courses in UL and DCU.

The TLT scheme (or Third Level maintenance grants for Trainees) covers maintenance grants for most Level 7 and Level 6 courses in all institutes of technology.

A fourth scheme, the PLC ESF-aided maintenance grant scheme, covers eligible students attending approved PLC/FE courses, usually in the VEC sector.

VEC scholarship grants, TLT grants and PLC ESF-aided grants are administered by vocational education committees.

All schemes use the same reckonable income limits and pay the same amount of money.

Should students apply to all schemes, since they are not sure in advance what course they will be offered?

No. Applicants generally fill out only one form for the scheme they think they are most likely to be dealing with.

If a student applies to his or her local county council for a HEG because he or she hopes to get a place on a Level 8 course in university, but finally gets a place on a Level 7/Level 6 course in an institute of technology, which is covered by a TLT grant, the local authority will simply send the student's grant application to their local VEC who will then look after its payment.

The reverse is also the case.

How much is a maintenance grant worth?

A grant recipient may be entitled to full maintenance (100pc), or one of three rates of part maintenance (75pc), (50pc), or (25pc), depending on family income and the number of dependent children in the family.

There are two separate rates of maintenance, non-adjacent and adjacent. The adjacent rate applies to a grant-holder whose normal residence is 15 miles or less from the college that he or she is attending. The non-adjacent rate is usually payable in all other cases.

The principle is that if you live near enough to college to live at home, you get less money for maintenance.

The highest award, €3,250, represents full (100pc) maintenance at the "non-adjacent" rate, and €1,300 is full maintenance at the "adjacent" rate. The lowest (25pc) rate of maintenance is €810 for the non-adjacent rate, and €330 for the adjacent rate.

At the top end of the income scale, a student from a family with eight or more dependent children, whose family income is not more than €49,045, would be entitled to full (100pc) maintenance and *full fees.

If their family income is not more than €61,295, they would be entitled to part fees (50pc) only.

A student from a family of less than four dependent children, whose family income does not exceed ¿41,110, would be entitled to 100pc maintenance and full fees. If their family income was no more than €51,380, they would be entitled to part (50pc) fees only.

Parents or legal guardians with fewer than four dependent children can earn up to €51,380 without having to pay the student services charge, which will be up to €1,500 depending on the third-level institution.

The annual income threshold for students from families on low incomes, (who get a higher special rate of maintenance grant), was increased this year from €22,308 to €22,703. There, students will receive an additional €3,105 (non adjacent) or €1,245 (adjacent) rate.

*Since the tuition fees on approved courses are paid for all first time undergraduate students, "fees" in this instance refers to fees for courses which are not covered by the free tuition fees scheme.

Where can I find out more about grants?

The extremely user-friendly website,, (an initiative of the HEA or Higher Education Authority), guides applicants through every stage of the process.

Is it too late to apply for a grant now?

The closing date for a grant application this year is August 31, 2010 but early application was recommended as far back as May/June.

Application forms can be downloaded online. An online application system will be gradually introduced, starting in some areas this year.

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