Teagasc is to introduce means testing of maintenance grants for first-year students at its seven agricultural and horticultural colleges from the beginning of the coming academic year.
A new maintenance grant system will replace the traditional system where all students were automatically offered residential accommodation at colleges.
Students who meet the means-testing criteria will be paid a maintenance grant similar to the VEC rate. The current rate is €111.42 per week for non-adjacent students (more than 45km from home to college) and €44.64 per week for adjacent students. The overall rate for the year will depend on the duration of the particular programme being undertaken.
With the grant money, students can decide to pay for residential accommodation at the college, use it for alternative accommodation, or spend it on commuting from home.
Students can also use their grant to purchase their meals at the college or make their own arrangements as they see fit. Due to staff retirements, Teagasc has had to outsource catering at a number of colleges.
Under the means-testing system, the threshold for the maintenance grant will be a total household income of €41,110. This threshold will vary, depending on the number of dependent children in the household.
Other criteria will be taken into account, including the dependency status of the applicant, as well as their citizenship status.
The changes represent a fundamental shift in the traditional agricultural education model, bringing the colleges more into line with the broader higher education system, according to Teagasc.
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