Dáil Éireann - Volume 492 - 09 June, 1998

Written Answers. - Higher Education Grants.

233. Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Science if he will amend the maximum income limits for determining eligibility for higher education grants; if he will introduce a system of marginal relief whereby applicants, whose parents income slightly exceeds the maximum permissible limit, would receive a proportion of the grant up to a designated cut off point where [221] they would be deemed ineligible for any grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13363/98]

Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The maximum income limits for [222] determining eligibility for higher education grants have been increased by 3.2 per cent for the 1998-99 academic year. The £2,000 income allowance for each additional family member in third level has been increased to £2,060. The new income limits and value of grants are given in the following tables.

Higher Education Grants Scheme 1998

Reackonable Income Limits+

Number of Dependent Children

Full Maintenance and full fees

Part Maintenance (50%) and full fees

Full Fees Only

Part Fees (50%) Only

Less than 4

£18,308

£19,525

£21,971

£23,189

4-7

£20,139

£21,357

£23,798

£25,021

8 or more

£21,971

£23,189

£23,630

£26,853

+ In the 1998-9 academic year where two or more children (or the candidate's parent) are pursuing a course of study listed below, the reckonable income limits may be increased by £2,060 where there are two such children, £4,120 where there are three such children and so on by increments of £2,060.

(i) attending full-time third level education.

(ii) attending a recognised PLC course, student nurse training or student garda training.

(iii) participating in a CERT course of at least one years duration.

(iv) attending a full time Teagasc course in an agricultural college.

Entitlement to a grant operates on a graduated basis at present. In order to qualify for a grant a candidate's reckonable income must be below the income limit, which varies for the level of grant and in relation to the number of dependent children in the family. Where there are two or more children attending full-time third level education, the relevant income limits are increased by £2,060 where there are two such children, £4,120 for three children and so on, by increments of £2,060. The income limits vary with the number of dependants. Different limits apply where there are fewer than four dependent children, between four and seven and eight or more dependants.

Prior to the introduction of the new arrangements in 1992, the income limits were set by the actual number of dependent children, in excess of two and up to ten dependent chidren. The income limits varied depending on whether a maintenance grant was payable and if so, whether it was payable at the adjacent or non-adjacent rate and depending on the rate of lecture fee grant payable. These arrangements were cumbersome and difficult for the local authorites to administer, while being extremely difficult for an individual candidate to understand. The new arrangements simplified the income limits, easing the administrative burden on the local authorities and making the system more comprehensible for candidates generally.

Further refinement to the present graduated system to provide tapering relief for candidates whose income exceeds the relevant limits would have implications for the administration of the schemes and would also involve the commitment of substantial additional resources. In the light of overall resource constraints I am obliged to have regard to the relative priority of all proposals for improvements and the many competing demands across the education system. I will, however, keep this question under review in the light of available resources.