Hundreds of mature students have lost out on the grants vital to helping them take a step towards securing a better life for themselves, Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish has revealed.
He has warned people over 23 who may hope to go to NUI Galway, GMIT or other third-level colleges as mature students next September that they may need to take action now to ensure they qualify for maintenance grants worth many thousands of euro.
“To qualify for the grant in normal circumstances, they must be living away from home since the previous October — but what many of them do not realise is that they must be able to provide proof of that.
“Unfortunately, every year, my constituency office is contacted by people who didn’t hold on to things like rent receipts and utility bills in their name that would prove that they have been living independently since the start of October,” said Deputy Grealish.
“The maintenance grants rates are as much as €6,000 for disadvantaged students, or €3,000 for others, and those who qualify also escape the €3,000 additional student contribution charged by the colleges and universities.
“That potential €9,000-plus annual assistance may be the difference for many people between being able to improve themselves and maybe transform their lives, or deciding that the costs are just too high to bear,” he added.
Last week, Deputy Grealish was told by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan that in the past two years alone, almost 500 mature students had applications refused for a third level maintenance grant, because they were unable to provide proof of independent residence.
In reply to a Parliamentary Question tabled by the Independent TD for Galway West, she said that there were 196 students refused in the 2014/15 academic year and this had risen to 278 students in the current academic year to date.
Unless a mature student can prove they have been living away from home since October 1 of the year before they start college, their application is subject to a means test, which takes into account their home family income, with limits as low as less than €40,000 a year.
An independent student is assessed solely on their own income, and that of their spouse or partner if they have one.
The top rate of maintenance grant is paid to a student living 45 kilometres or more from the college they attend, with a reduced rate for those living closer.
The number of mature students attending ITs and universities in Ireland has been rising in recent years, with more than one in eight new entrants being over 23, according to a recent report by the Higher Education Authority.