FOR the majority of prospective college students, funding a third-level education is a big consideration.
Students and their families should be aware of supports they are eligible to receive if they qualify for a college place next autumn.
As well as the maintenance grants available as part of the Government’s programme of student support — almost €6,000 a year for those from the lowest-income homes, despite further cuts in Budget 2012 — a range of scholarships is also available.
As well as offering financial support for socially-disadvantaged students, a number of funds are available for students based solely on academic performance. University of Limerick, for example, is to offer entrance scholarships of €2,000 each to 40 students beginning their studies there next autumn. All applications for places at UL through the CAO will be automatically included for selection, which will be based on CAO points in the Leaving Certificate.
Other schemes offering financial assistance through college include the Fund for Students with Disabilities, which helped third-level institutions provide equipment, special materials, technology and transport for 6,000 people with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties last year.
Although the fund is being cut this year by one-fifth, or nearly €3m, the Department of Education says it will still be able to meet demands placed on it. The supports mentioned here, and a range of other financial assistance programmes for college-goers, are outlined on the Higher Education Authority website dedicated to this topic: http://www.studentfinance.ie where details of the 2012 grants schemes, a revised State-funded bursary programme, and other assistance should be available as they are finalised.
Students and their families should make themselves aware of all the options, as they could qualify for vital funding or other assistance that will make the difference between ability to attend college or not.
Niall Murray, The Irish Examiner, 12/1/2012