Data from Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) shows that a significantly higher proportion of students from Border and farming counties satisfy its means-tested criteria for State payments than students in the greater Dublin area.
In 2013, 733 out of 1,256 new applicants to Susi in Cavan were successful, a rate of 62 per cent. This compared to 53 per cent in Dublin where 7,721 applicants out of 14,660 were successful.
Delays in allocating student grants are leaving young people from low income families ‘locked out’ of third level education, the Society of Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has warned.
Student Universal Support Ireland said it had received more than 100,000 applications for 2014-2015 and expected to award approximately 73,000 grants for this academic year.
However, given many school leavers self-select and do not applying to Susi on the grounds that they are unlikely to meet the means test criteria, these figures under-represent the disparity between counties.
A more accurate reflection of the rate of success among students in applying for a grant is comparing the number of awards with the number of students who applied to higher-education courses from each county. On this measurement, students from Cavan had a 68 per cent success rate and those from Dublin 44 per cent.
The county which delivered the next highest rate of first-time grants, per CAO applications, was Monaghan (67.5 per cent) followed by Donegal (66 per cent), and Carlow, Limerick, Longford, Leitrim and Mayo (all 63 per cent).
Only 47 per cent of students in Kildare were successful in getting a grant, 48 per cent in Meath, 50 per cent in Wicklow and 53 per cent in Cork.
The pattern was similar in 2012 although Monaghan came out on top with an award rate of 71 per cent. Donegal was next at 70 per cent, then Cavan, Carlow, Leitrim and Mayo (all 68 per cent).
The award rate in Dublin in 2012 was identical to that in 2013 at 44 per cent.
There were more than 68,000 new applicants for grants (as distinct from renewals) through Susi last year and almost 40,000 received awards.
The size of award varies according to family income and the distance which students have to travel to college from their ordinary residence.
To qualify, a family of less than four children must have an income below €52,240. This will guarantee the minimum level of funding of €1,375, or 50 per cent of the annual student contribution. For the same sized family with an income below €39,875, 100 per cent of the contribution is paid along with a maintenance grant of up to €3,025 and the cost of compulsory field trips.
Previous figures from the Higher Education Authority showed that farmers and the self-employed were more than twice as likely to get college grants for their children as PAYE workers.