By Ciara Moore
First year students entering DCU through the HEAR scheme will not have their Access scholarship grant cut despite a large rise in the intake of students to the programme this year.
A total of 185 places were offered for DCU courses and 170 of these students accepted a place on the Access programme.
This is a considerable rise in numbers compared to last year when only 120 students entered their course via the scheme.
Post-entry project officer for the DCU Access Service, Cathy McLoughlin said “obviously costs go up when there is a higher intake of students into the Access programme”. She added “It is very positive and great to give all our students equal opportunities. Access students add to the university in every way”.
In 2010, the scholarship grant was cut to €1000 per student. Previously, the grant was the larger sum of around €1,200 euro which students received in one payment during the academic year.
This payment has since been reduced and split into two parts, the first is received by students during semester one followed by the remainder in semester two.
The change to the payment system was to give all Access students an equal amount for their grant scholarship.
Head of the Access Service, Ita Tobin said “the remainder of the money is used to manage disadvantaged crisis cases where students have no funds and need to be assisted by the Access team. In this way we try to use our funding to the best possible advantage”.
Students with individual circumstances can receive a top-up grant and subsidised accommodation.
The scholarship grant is funded by the Educational Trust. The DCU Educational Trust is a registered charity since 1988. It raises money through corporations, individuals and DCU alumni.
Ita Tobin said “it is always difficult to raise money each year to invest in the Access grant scholarship. We are constantly competing with other charities such as Childline and the increase in the number of students this year has not helped”.
She added, “even though under pressure the Educational Trust always manages each year and the increase in the numbers accepted to the Access programme this year at DCU is brilliant for the students and for us”.
The rise in the number of students entering college through the Access programme this year is due to the increasing awareness of the scheme among leaving certificate students and guidance counsellors around the country.
This is the first year that incoming students have had the opportunity to apply for the HEAR programme while filling out their CAO form. In an exclusive interview with this newspaper today, President of DCU, Brian MacCraith said, ‘‘The government support for it may be cut but ours certainly hasn’t. On average our access students do better than students coming in the traditional way. It’s a core value fantastic programme, it’s something you’re proud to promote outside of DCU.’’
The DCU Access Service is the oldest in the country and will celebrate its twenty-first anniversary in October.
The Access Service provides extensive post-entry support to its students. An orientation summer school is held at the beginning of September each year for a period of three days.
This is to prepare students socially and academically for undergraduate life. Once the academic year begins students are given on-going support from their post-entry officers through one-to-one meetings and peer mentoring.
First year student, Mary MacDonnell said “Access was such a great help. I would have been lost without it and everyone on the Access programme that I have been talking to this year agrees”.