Grant applications still open to students seeking financial aid

SUSI is moving through applicants faster than previous years.

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Students struggling to meet the costs of education for the duration of their course can still apply for a SUSI grant via susi.ie. This support includes a grant to cover all or part of the €3,000 annual registration charge.

Applications to SUSI are still open, although the deadline for ‘priority’ treatment has passed. The official website at susi.ie allows students to self-assess using their ‘eligibility reckoner’. Although the reckoner is helpful, the website stresses that it provides only “an approximate indication of your possible eligibility… Your actual eligibility for a student grant can only be determined on the basis of your formal application”.

There are several criteria for eligibility. You must be Irish, from the EU or EEA (European Economic Area) or have specific leave to remain in the State. You must have been a resident of the EU/EAA or Switzerland for three of the last five years, although if you were a resident outside of Ireland, you may still receive the student contribution (fees element), but might not be eligible for a maintenance grant.

You must be progressing in education. Leaving Certificate students going to college for the first time would be progressing because they are increasing their National Framework of Qualification (NFQ) level. However, you would be ineligible for funding to do another course at the same level. For example, if you have to repeat a year, you are not eligible.

SUSI only provides funding for approved courses in approved institutions. Generally, courses have to be full-time to be approved.

For the 2015-16, academic year, SUSI will assess an application with reference to income earned in 2014. Whose income is calculated depends on a number of different factors, including which class of applicant you are, dependent or independent. Be sure to apply under the right class, or your application will be cancelled and you will need to apply again.

After an online application is received by SUSI, an initial assessment is carried out to determine what documentation is required to support the application.  It is important to provide all of the requested documentation in a timely manner. The amount of documentation required by SUSI has decreased significantly since it first came into operation.

So far, SUSI has been making better progress than last year in processing applications. The day after the Central Applications Office (CAO) offered college places, SUSI had decided just under half of the 97,500 applications received, compared to less than a third at the same time in 2014.

Total applications have increased, but so have the number of grants awarded. These improvements are due to changes to SUSI’s systems, most notably opening for applications two weeks earlier than previous, in late April.

In order to help meet other costs such as rental deposits, the Department of Education has also changed funding to SUSI. This year, four grant payments should be made during the first term instead of the usual three.

SUSI communications manager Graham Doyle said that the grant-awarding body expects “to make our first payments this year on September 25”.

57,819 of the 75,197 students supported by SUSI in the last academic year received maintenance payments ranging from €305 to €5,915. Undergraduates also had their student contribution paid to their college. People from families with incomes between €45,790 and €54,240 can have half or all their €3,000 student contribution covered by SUSI.

Postgraduate students are not eligible for maintenance grants. However, if they have household earning up to €31,500, they can receive varying levels of assistance with tuition fees.

By Mark Laherty

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