Tuesday, 28 July 2020
Department of Education and Skills
Student Universal Support Ireland
518. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will revert SUSI adjacency grants to pre-2011 levels to take account of students that will remain living at home due to Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18816/20]
The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college. The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living away from home.
Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres.
The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have taken place in the road and rail network and it is considered that the revised distance criteria is more consistent with the type of distances that students may legitimately be expected to commute to college.
The current qualifying distance of 45km for the higher non-adjacent rate of student grant takes into account a reasonable radius within which students may commute on a daily basis.
There are no plans at present to change the current arrangements.
The Student Assistance Fund (SAF) provides financial assistance to students experiencing financial difficulties while attending third level. Students can be assisted towards the rent, childcare costs, transport costs and books/class materials. The total allocation for the SAF is €9.1 million which includes an additional €1 million added to the Fund in 2017 for part-time students who are lone-parents or members of the other access target groups. Prior to that the fund supported full-time students only. In December 2018 a further €1 million was added to the Fund for students attending Professional Masters of Education courses, who are experiencing financial difficulty. This funding continued into 2019 and 2020. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the Covid-19 situation.
In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student’s local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie