Financial help for college

I’m 18 and hope to go to college in the autumn. What do I do about a grant as my parents are both unemployed and can’t afford to help me financially?

I’m 18 and hope to go to college in the autumn. What do I do about a grant as my parents are both unemployed and can’t afford to help me financially?

The Department of Education and Skills provides financial assistance for people on low incomes to access further and higher education.

You may apply for a means-tested maintenance grant if you are planning to take an approved full-time third level course or a Post Leaving Certificate or a course leading to a Higher Certificate or Ordinary Bachelor degree in an Institute of Technology. Previously, there were 4 different schemes but the Department plans to run a single unified scheme of maintenance grants in 2011. The maintenance grant is paid in instalments throughout the academic year. If you have qualified for a maintenance grant, you will not have to pay tuition fees or the student contribution. Depending on your family’s income, you may qualify for a full grant or a partial grant.

There are two different grant rates – adjacent and non-adjacent. You must live 45 km or more away from college to qualify for the non-adjacent rate. There is also a special extra grant for disadvantaged students which tops up the ordinary grant.

You should apply for a maintenance grant as soon as the application process is open. Do not wait until you get an offer of a place or enrol in college. Grants are currently administered by Vocational Educational Committees (VECs) and local authorities. Guidance notes published with the application form will give details of where and how you should apply.

You can find out more about maintenance grants by visiting studentfinance.ie. This site will also give you information on other forms of student support such as scholarships.

Your parents can continue to get an increase for a qualified child with their social welfare claim and this will last until you are 22 if you stay in full-time education and your parents remain on long-term payment.

You can get the Citizens Information Board’s booklet Information for school leavers and further information from the Citizens Information Centre below.

Know Your Rights has been compiled by Co Offaly Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public at The Bridge Centre, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Tel: 057 93 52204.

Information is also available online at citizensinformation.ie and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, Lo-call 1890 777 121 or (021 4521600).