Easing the costs of college: grants, awards and scholarships

Financial help is available for those who cannot afford a third-level course

Whether you are interested in doing a further education or a higher education course, you should investigate whether you are eligible for a student grant on www.susi.ie

Whether you are interested in doing a further education or a higher education course, you should investigate whether you are eligible for a student grant on www.susi.ie

 

If you are considering going to college but are unsure if you can afford it, you may be eligible for a student grant. Susi (Student Universal Support Ireland), which was established in 2012, is now the awarding authority for all new student grant applications.

There were some teething problems in its first year of operation, but thankfully, the awarding of grants in the current academic year has operated very smoothly.

Whether you are interested in doing a further education or a higher education course, you should investigate whether you are eligible for a student grant on www.susi.ie. Applications for this year will open in early May, and I would advise you to apply for your grant as soon as the online applications open.

The Susi website is a comprehensive source of information on the student grant scheme and provides a step-by-step guide to eligibility and the grants process. If you think you may be eligible, the online application system provides you with a quick, user-friendly way to apply.

If you are deemed to be provisionally eligible you will be asked to provide documents to support your application. Now is a good time to start sourcing these. The types of documents required can be found on Susi’s website .

To speed up your application and your payment, tick the Susi option on your
CAO application, as this allows them to tell Susi when you have accepted a college place.


Who is entitled to a grant?
Grants are means-tested payments based on your household income for the last full tax year.

In the main, tuition fees are paid directly to colleges by the Higher Education Authority. Susi-administered grants cover student contributions (registration fees), maintenance payments and, for post-graduate students, tuition fees.

Grants are awarded under a variety of categories: students aged both under and over 23; post-graduate students; Irish students studying overseas; and overseas students studying in Ireland.

There are different eligibility criteria for each student category. In some cases, both fees and maintenance will be paid; in others either fees or maintenance grants can be awarded.

Where applicable, the full registration fee will be paid directly to the relevant colleges. Maintenance payments will be made directly to the student’s bank account in monthly instalments.

The amount awarded will depend on household income level, the number of children in the family and the number who are attending college at the same time.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be awarded 100 per cent, 75 per cent, 50 per cent or 25 per cent of the standard rate of the grant. Those on lower incomes with a social-welfare component (see www.susi.ie for the relevant social welfare schemes) may be awarded a special rate of maintenance grant, currently standing at €5,915, if they are living farther than 45km from the college.

Higher maintenance payments are also given to all successful applicants living farther than 45km from their college.


Scholarships and awards
All colleges within the CAO system offer scholarships and awards to attract students to their institutions. These scholarships can be of an academic, sport or performing arts variety.

Academic scholarships may be awarded based on Leaving Certificate points or equivalent examination results.

Colleges also operate student assistance funds to help those who experience financial difficulty during their studies.

The Department of Education and Skills administers two scholarship programmes. A scheme of bursaries is available for students from Deis schools based on Leaving Certificate examination results. Applications are not needed for these bursaries as they are awarded on a regional basis (Dublin, the rest of Leinster, Munster and Connacht/Ulster) based on examinations results.


Bursary
The Ernest Walton Stem bursary is available on a similar basis, and is aimed at students who intend completing a third-level course in the Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.

No applications are necessary as the scholarships are awarded based on the Leaving Certificate exam results. They are available to first-time Leaving Cert students who have been exempt from paying the exam fee and who have attended non-fee-paying post primary schools.

JP McManus

Sponsored by Limerick businessman JP McManus, the educational bursary provides financial assistance to more than 100 high-achieving eligible students with a minimum of two awards for every county.

The scholarships have been set at €6,750 a year and continue for the duration of the undergraduate programmes chosen by the scholarship winners.

For further details see http://iti.ms/Kh5vpS

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