Grants and scholarships to beat the budget blues

How much will it cost to attend university?

 

Going to college can be expensive at the best of times, but with part-time jobs in short supply because of the Covid-19 crisis - and many parents out of work - students might find money tighter than usual. So how can students get through the year, and what sort of grants or supports are available?

Maintenance grants

Eleanor Murphy, communications and customer services manager at Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), Ireland’s national awarding authority for all higher and further education grants.

“The key thing for anyone planning to attend a further or higher education college is to get their application in to us as soon as possible,” she says. “It doesn’t matter whether or not they have accepted a course, because you can apply to SUSI early. We just need an indication of the course that they hope to study, though we know that can change; if they tell us in a months time that they’re not doing that course, it’s fine.

“Once the course is in an approved institution we can assess their application on that basis. Getting the application in to us early means that we can process it as soon as possible, because we want an outcome before they start the new academic year.”

SUSI grants are normally processed based on reckonable income from the previous years. This means that, for people going to further or higher education in 2020, SUSI would normally look at the 2019 income of parents, spouses or applicants.

“This year, we are very conscious that thousands of people will have experienced a sudden and unexpected drop in income, so people can apply to be assessed under ‘change of circumstances’ where we can look at the income for 2020,” says Murphy.

SUSI’s website contains an eligibility reckoner where students can quickly figure out if they will be able to get a grant. They have been open for grant applications and will remain open all summer.

Higher education applicants will have their full fees covered and a maintenance grant. PLC applicants do not get their fee covered, but is usually very small - less than €200 in some instances and usually less than €300, depending on the institution.

However, student leaders and access officers have repeatedly pointed out that the maintenance grant does not come near to covering the costs of going to third-level.

For more information, see Susi.ie

Hardship funds

Many students will have real financial difficulties in the coming academic year, says Dr Brian Gormley, head of campus life at TU Dublin.

A recent survey carried out by the university found that anxiety about infection/social distancing was the most cited concern expressed by students, with financial concerns a close second.

“The survey shows that while 63 per cent of students had part-time work last year, only 36 per cent expect to have a job in the coming semester while 12 per cent of part-time students were also concerned about their finances,” Gormley says. “The lack of work over the summer will also have a serious impact on finances for many. The survey also revealed that the uncertainty and worry about the pandemic have significantly impacted students’ mental health.

“If you are experiencing financial hardship, contact the Student Assistance Fund in your college, and they will do their best to provide advice and support,” Gormely advises. “To respond to the challenges faced by students during Covid-19, TU Dublin is launching a campaign to raise funds to provide additional support for our students.”

College access programmes, aimed at disadvantaged students or students who need additional financial support, can also get help from the college’s access office. Always go to the local students’ union, especially for the welfare officer, if you are struggling financially.

The website CareersPortal is a useful source of advice for all third-level students.
The website CareersPortal is a useful source of advice for all third-level students.

Scholarships

Although undergraduate scholarships are relatively thin on the ground in Ireland, there are some that may help students - but they are often on application only, so if you don’t apply, you can’t get it.

The website CareersPortal, a useful source of advice for all third-level students, lists a number of these scholarships, which include:

DCU Academic Scholarship Programme: Incoming students with a certain CAO points requirement will be awarded an academic scholarship worth €500. See dcu.ie/prosepctive/ scholarships for more information.

GMIT Academic Scholarships: The nine students with the highest Leaving Cert points will receive a scholarship

The A&L Goodbody Solicitor Prize: Awarded to first and second year students at the University of Limerick. The law student with the highest grade in first year will win an iPad, while the second year student with top marks will win €500.

IADT Scholarships for Asylum Seekers/ Refugees: IADT is offering two scholarships for students who are international protection or refugees and what to pursue a course at the Institute in 2020/21

UCD Ad Astra scholarships: UCD offers 15 scholarships to incoming first years who have an excellent academic record. See ucd.ie/adastraacademy for more details

UCC BEd Gaeilge scholarships/ Scoláireachtaí BEd Gaeilge: Ten scholarships, each worth €2,000, are offered on the basis of Irish leaving Cert results.

For a full list of scholarships, see CareersPortal.ie/scholarships, enquire with your college or check your college’s own website.

Living away from home and attending college is costly.
Living away from home and attending college is costly.

Costs of Living 2020

TU Dublin produces an annual student cost of living guide and this year, for the first time in a decade, it has dropped from €12,171 to €11,948.25 for students living away from home.

“This marginal decrease is primarily due to lower mobile phone costs, and the curtailment of social activities due to Covid-19,” says Gormley. “It should be noted that many other factors will affect the cost of student accommodation in 2020/2021. Some students who live at home may save costs on traveling to college, but could lose out on bar and night work as it dries up in the face of the pandemic.

“But there is evidence from the Residential Tenancies Board that rents have dropped by 3.3 per cent since this time last year,” he says. “Some of our accommodation providers are offering three days a week rental and we have also arranged special deals with local hotels for students who might just need a place to stay for a night or two.

“Although it may be difficult for colleges to be specific, students should try and find out how many days per week they can expect to be on campus,” he says. “As some HEIs will be offering blended learning, students may only be on campus one or two days per week. In that case, it may be cheaper to pay for a room on a nightly basis, rather than renting a place for a full week.”

The TU Dublin survey found that 17 per cent of students are concerned about using public transport. “Consider if it is possible to cycle to college to avoid public transport and to save money,” Gormley says. “An annual membership for Dublin Bikes costs €25. The Child Leap Card is valid until a student turns 19, and this can reduce the weekly cost of travel by over 60 per cent.”