CAO countdown: Can you afford to go to college? Here’s what it costs

Make sure to do your financial calculations before choosing a course

A grant from the State’s grants agency can be a crucial factor in a student’s decision on whether to accept a course offer. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

A grant from the State’s grants agency can be a crucial factor in a student’s decision on whether to accept a course offer. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

It’s easy to choose a college course – but being in a position to pay registration fees, living costs and spiralling rental accommodation is something else

Technological University Dublin’s annual Student Cost of Living Guide estimates it costs on average almost €12,000 a year to fund a student living away from home.

For those living at home while attending college, the estimated average costs are still steep: just under €7,000.

It’s important to do the maths to make sure whatever option your son or daughter chooses is affordable.

A grant from the State’s grants agency can be a crucial factor in a student’s decision on whether to accept a course offer.

Some 43 per cent of registered students this year are in receipt of a Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) grant.

These students have their €3,000 fees covered, while many also receive a maintenance grant.

Can I apply now?

Susi will open its online application system for the 2020/2021 academic year in early April.

It typically receives up to 100,000 applications and awards approximately 75,000 of those.

Those who tick the Susi option on their CAO application forms agree to the CAO sharing their information with Susi. This always works to students’ advantage, and enables them to secure funding as early as possible.

Susi deals with applications on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, it is important to apply as early as possible after the April opening date.

How to apply

You can apply through the Susi website (susi.ie). There is an “eligibility reckoner” on the homepage to get an idea of whether you might be eligible for a grant.

For the 2020/2021 academic year, your application will be assessed on gross income from all sources for the period January 1st, 2019, to December 31st, 2019.

Where self-employed/farming/rental income forms part of the family income, students will need to submit a full set of trading accounts for 2019, plus confirmation that the tax returns for the year have been made to the Revenue Commissioners (known as an acknowledgment of self-assessment).

Susi also provides assistance for approved full-time education in further education (post-Leaving Cert courses), postgraduate studies and, in some cases, to students studying outside the State.

Students attending further education (typically post-Leaving Cert courses) can receive a maintenance grant, the value of which is determined by the level of reckonable income in the household for the previous year and the distance the student travels from home to college (more or less than 45km).

As for students at postgraduate level, those eligible for the special rate grant can receive a fee contribution (max €6,270) and maintenance.

Interestingly, eligible students attending courses in many institutions outside the State – at undergraduate level only – may also receive a maintenance grant.

CAO offers

If you are awarded a student grant for your first choice of course in August, you will receive an updated grant award letter when Susi receives details of your accepted course through the CAO.

If you are awarded a grant to study at undergraduate level but don’t receive an offer through the CAO and will instead be attending a PLC course, you will need to inform Susi by submitting an online “course change notification form”.

Incidentally, the first payment date for maintenance grant payments in the coming academic year is during September and for further education (PLCs) it is October.

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