Know Your Rights: Funding For College

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Know Your Rights has been compiled by Kerry Citizens Information Service which provides a free and confidential service to the public… 

Question: I’m unemployed and planning to go to college. What funding is available for this?

Answer:  Most undergraduate students attending publicly funded third-level courses for the first time will qualify for the Free Fees Initiative.

You must meet criteria as regards residence, nationality and immigration status, as well as course requirements. If you qualify for free fees, you do not have to pay tuition fees. In addition to fees, there is a separate student contribution, which you pay to the college.

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The student grant is the main financial support for students. The grant can cover all or part of your fees (if they are not already covered) and the student contribution and it can also provide some maintenance. To qualify for a grant, you and your course must meet certain criteria and you must pass a means test.

The Back to Education Allowance is available to people who have been getting certain social welfare payments for a set period of time before starting their course. You cannot get a Back to Education Allowance and the maintenance portion of a student grant at the same time. If you are eligible for both, you should find out which would be of more benefit to you.

The Free Fees Initiative, the student grant and the Back to Education Allowance all have rules regarding progression from previous studies.

However, there are exceptions. If you intend to start a course at a level you have studied before, you should check whether the rules on progression apply to your situation.

If you do not qualify for the Free Fees Initiative or the student grant, you should find out whether Springboard can help you to return to education. Springboard provides free higher education courses related to specific areas in which there are employment opportunities.

If you have to pay tuition fees and a student contribution, you may qualify for tax relief. You can find out more about sources of funding, including the Student Assistance Fund for students experiencing financial hardship, on

Further information is available from the Citizens Information Service below.

• Contact us in Tralee on Tel: 0761 07 7860 Killarney 0761 07 7820, Listowel 0761 07 7840 Kenmare 0761 07 7810, Killorglin 0761 07830 & Caherciveen 0761 07 7780.

Information is also available online at and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, 0761 07 4000

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