Dozens of asylum seekers can apply next week for student grants and to be exempt from international college fees that would make higher education here impossible for them.
However, any who are the subject of deportation orders during their studies will not be allowed to continue.
Under details announced by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan — which she had flagged earlier this month and last Easter before college applications closed — free tuition will only be available to those who have been at least five years in the Irish school system and have completed the Leaving Certificate. They must also have spent at least five years as part of an application for asylum or at leave-to-remain stage to be considered for the supports.
“This will bring certainty to a relatively small number of students who up until now have been marginalised despite their academic performance,” she said.
Anyone meeting the time criteria and who has been accepted on an approved third-level or post-Leaving Certificate course will be able to apply to the Department of Education. It will notify the relevant colleges if a student qualifies for the free tuition scheme, meaning they do not have to pay the international charges that some non-EU undergraduates face, which can be in the region of €15,000 a year.
In addition, the department will also assess their eligibility for maintenance grants and covering the €3,000 undergraduate student contribution. The same income thresholds will be applied as to people seeking assistance through Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi).
But with around half of children and young adults seeking asylum living in direct provision, it is likely that most would qualify for the maximum level of student maintenance of €2,375, or €5,915 if travelling more than 45km to college.
The elimination of financial barriers to third-level access to students living here five years or more had also been recommended in the report in June of a working group on the asylum process and direct provision, chaired by former High Court judge Bryan McMahon.
It estimated that around 22 students in direct provision accommodation would sit the Leaving Certificate this year, and a further 60 may be expected to do so in the next three or four years.
Any asylum seekers who are already attending college would also be entitled to the benefits of the new scheme but without any reimbursement of fees or other costs to date by them or their benefactors.
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