Applications for student grants for the new academic year are now open and changes to the grants will see significant improvements for students.
- Maintenance grants will increase by €200
- The income threshold for the standard rate of grant will increase by €1,000
- The distance for the higher non-adjacent student grant will be reduced from 45km to 30km
Waterford Fine Gael Senator John Cummins welcomed the news saying; "these changes to the grants will deliver much-needed assistance to students and families across Waterford.
“The €200 increase in the maintenance grant will offer direct financial assistance to over 62,000 students across the country, and increasing the eligibility cut off point by €1,000 will ensure even more students qualify, and more families can access support."
The news comes as the government is due to provide more funding for third level education.
However, annual student contribution fees of €3,000 won't be cut immediately.
The issue of third level fees and investment has been ongoing since 2016, when a report warned the then government it would need an additional €600,000,000 a year by 2021 to fund higher education, rising to one billion euro extra a year by 2030.
The Cassell's report said the additional investment was needed due to a growing younger population and to reduce student to staff ratios in lecture halls.
The Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, will bring a memo to cabinet later, which would seek approval from his government colleagues to increase funding to help families with the cost of college, as well as grant reforms to allow part-time students access funding.
Fianna Fail's spokesperson on Higher Education Malcolm Byrne, says any changes implemented needs to be sustainable.
"It can't a sticking plaster solution.
"We have got got to address the concerns outlined in the The Cassel's report that we do need up to one billion euro in extra investment.
"It's not just about meeting current demands, we are going though a period of rapid technological change and convergence.
"That is going to mean that you, me, everybody is going to need to up skill and re skill to be able to avail and shape the world with these new technologies."
But, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, Clare Austick, says the student contribution charge needs to be abolished immediately:
"It's not just the student contribution charge, it's accommodation, rents, the cost of living.
"Those students who don't get the SUSI grant have to work part time jobs and they're really really struggling
"While we really want to tackle access to education and make it equitable, we certainly have to tackle it at the core."