Financial Assistance for Mature Students

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Listed below are a number of schemes and programmes offering financial assistance for mature students returning to third level education.

Maintenance grants are available for approved courses in further and higher education at certificate, diploma and degree level. Forms for these grants are available at your local VEC and county council. You can apply for the higher education grants scheme if you’re a student undertaking an approved full-time undergraduate course of at least two years duration. In all cases the student must satisfy the provisions of a means test to qualify for a grant. Maintenance Grants assist with the cost of travel and study expenses, though they do not pay for course fees.

The following schemes provide maintenance grants to eligible students attending higher and further level institutions: The Higher Education Grant Scheme (HEG), Vocational Education Committee (VEC), Third Level Maintenance Grant Scheme for Trainees (TLT). The HEG scheme is devised by the Department of Education and Science and is administered by Local Authorities. The VEC scheme provides maintenance grants for students attending third level courses who are already in possession of a National Certificate or Diploma. The TLT scheme covers two-year National Certificate and three-year National Diploma courses, pursued in the Institutes of Technology. Further details can be found here.

Under the Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) scheme, people on unemployment benefit, as well as people in receipt of various other kinds of welfare benefits, can return to education with a weekly payment allowance equivalent to what they would usually receive from the social welfare authorities. They also benefit from additional allowances to meet the costs of their books and other learning materials.

The BTEA provides educational opportunities for people on social benefit – such as lone parents, people who are unemployed, and people with a disability – to commence approved second or third level courses of education. Applicants for the scheme are assessed and approved by FÁS under the National Employment Action Plan and there are two options of study available: second or third level education.

At second level the chosen course must be full-time and lead to a certificate recognised by the Department of Education and Science or approved by the Further Education Training Awards Council (FETAC).

At third level the chosen course can be at any university, third-level college or institution, provided that the course is a full-time day course of study and is approved by the Department of Education and Science for Higher Education Grant purposes, or for ESF Grant purposes, or has recognition from the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). Application for this scheme is through the Department of Social and Family Welfare. For more information about qualifying for the BTEA scheme click here.

Tax relief is also available for tuition fees. For more information on this contact your local tax office or click here. The Millennium Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged is a scheme designed to financially assist students of third level education living in disadvantaged areas. The amount allocated is determined by each individual case. Application to your local partnership/community group. To qualify for this funding you must be living within a partnership area. Eligibility varies from one partnership to another.

Charities concerned with social justice may also be able to provide financial assistance and personal support. For example, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul offers education grants to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and assists lone parents with childcare while they are getting the training they need to gain employment. ONE FAMILY offers free parenting support for lone parents with free on-site childcare. For more details click here.

If you’re going back to education and you’ve got children, you may be able to benefit from financial assistance with childcare. Some second and third-level institutions also provide a crèche service. Whatever your concerns about childcare, there are ways and means around it and it is worthwhile to explore as many avenues as possible. Use any support available and ask for help from those around you if necessary.

In addition, access officers within institutions operate a student assistance fund for students experiencing financial hardship. Some third level institutions also offer undergraduate mature students scholarships.
For more information regarding financial support for further and higher education for prospective mature students click here. is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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