Dáil Éireann - Volume 494 - 06 October, 1998
Written Answers. - Student Support Schemes.
Mr. Durkan Mr. Durkan
461. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Education and Science if his attention has been drawn to the concern of students regarding the inadequacy of the third level maintenance grant and the capitation charge which has not been capped; the proposals, if any, he has to resolve these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18755/98]
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin) Micheál Martin
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): The Higher Education Grants scheme and the ESF-Aided Maintenance Grant scheme comprise the third level maintenance grants schemes. In the 1996-7 academic year, almost 48,000 students received grants under these schemes. The 1996 cost of the schemes was £91 million.
The value of the maintenance grant under the student support schemes was increased by 1.7 per cent for the 1998-9 academic year. This increase is in line with the practice in recent years to increase third level maintenance grants in line with inflation as measured by the change in the Consumer Price Index for the period mid February to mid-February each year. The full maintenance grant for the current academic year has been increased to £1,652 at the non-adjacent rate and £600 at the adjacent rate.
The reckonable income limits for the 1998-99 academic year were increased by 3.2 per cent based on the increase in the average industrial wage for the period March 1996 to March 1997.  This is consistent with the approach adopted in recent years to determine the increase in income limits. I also applied this increase to the allowance by which the income limits may be increased in respect of other family members pursuing a course of study. The definition of eligible courses in this regard has also been extended.
I am committed to ongoing improvements in the third level student support schemes, including increasing the value of maintenance grants and increasing the income limits as resources permit. My priority in relation to the area of student support has been to honour the commitment given in the Programme for Government, An Action Programme for the Millennium to introduce equitable support for students attending PLC courses. I have honoured that commitment by way of introducting a maintenance grants scheme for students attending post leaving certificate courses. The scheme was issued to VEC's in August and it is anticipated that the first payment to students, which will be retrospecitve to September, will be made not later than January 1999. The grants payable under this scheme will be at the same level as the third level maintenance grants.
The position in relation to the capitation charge is that, in the context of the free fees initiative, the third level colleges levied a standardised charge of £150 in the 1995-96 academic year for examinations, registration and student services. Student services include health and welfare for students, students union and clubs and societies. This charge was fixed at a maximum of £150 for 1995-96 and 1996-97 academic years. In the light of the arguments advanced by the universities that the true costs of the services would on average amount to £400 in 1997-98, the need for improved student services and the fact that the charge had been frozen since 1995, I accepted an increase in the charge to £250 for the 1997-8 academic year. In line with the 4 per cent increase agreed for third level tuition fees for the 1998-9 academic year, I also accepted a similar increase in the level of this charge to £260.
I would point out that those students who are eligible for maintenance grants under the means tested student support schemes do not have to pay this charge. In this regard, some 60 per cent of certificate and diploma students in the technological sector and 40 per cent of students in the university sector are eligible for maintenance grants.
Dáil Éireann 494 Written Answers. Student Support Schemes.