Figures compiled by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) show a wide disparity in the allocation of grants between the Universities and the Institutes of Technology.
The study by the HEA found that Institutes of Technology have the highest proportion of students receiving grants (56 percent of all first years) while Universities have the lowest level at 36 percent.
Of the three Limerick institutions, Limerick Institute of Technology shows the highest proportion of new entrants in receipt of a grant with 62 percent of first year students receiving the full maintenance grant. University of Limerick are second with 48 percent and Mary Immaculate College are third with 43 percent.
HEA chief executive Tom Boland noted in the report that almost half of undergraduates are now in receipt of a higher education grant.
Mr Boland added that such support was essential for many to ensure they can afford to keep themselves at college.
“Disadvantaged rural families and communities seem to place a greater value on higher education and, even though incomes are often lower, there is an emphasis on continued participation in education,” said Mr Boland.
“That is a societal issue that should cause alarm. It requires a renewed focus and fresh solutions, including those developed by higher and further education in partnership with local communities,” he added.
The figures shown in the HEA report are based on an analysis of all those who began an undergraduate course in 2013 and this is the first time that a college by college breakdown of the student body by grant-holders has been published.
Grants are payable through Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) to full time undergraduate higher education students based on an assessment of their income or their parents’ income. Other factors include the number of dependent children in a family and the numbers at third level. The grants may cover fees and maintenance, fees on their own or partial fee payments.
Grant eligibility income thresholds range from about €40,000 to €65,000 a year and, depending on circumstances, can be worth up to €6,000 per year.