I want to return to college to upskill. Will I be eligible for a grant?

Ask Brian: Susi offers grants to eligible school leavers and mature students

The eligibility reckoner on Susi’s website is a quick and easy way to explore your eligibility for funding before beginning an application. Photograph: iStock

The eligibility reckoner on Susi’s website is a quick and easy way to explore your eligibility for funding before beginning an application. Photograph: iStock

 

I lost my job recently due to the pandemic and am considering a return to third level or further education to upskill or retrain. Will I be eligible for a Susi grant or is that just for school leavers?

Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) is the national awarding authority for further and higher education grants. It offers funding to eligible students from school leavers to mature students.

This funding can cover maintenance or tuition fees for full-time courses at PLC, undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

To be eligible, you must meet a number of eligibility criteria. You must be attending an approved course that leads to a higher level of qualification than you already hold. If, for example, you hold a level seven qualification, you must be progressing to a level eight qualification or higher.

There are exceptions to this if you are a second-chance student. For example, you may be eligible for funding if you previously attended but didn’t complete a course; have had a five-year break in studies since leaving that course and you are returning to attend an approved course at the same level.

There is also a maximum period of grant assistance. For example, up to three years’ grant assistance is available at PLC level five and six. Check online for more details.

The income limits increase to take account of the number of dependent children in your household

Your income must also fall within specified limits and your applicant class will determine whose income is considered. If you are living at home, you must apply as a mature dependent student with your parents’ details, and your income, as well as your parents’ income, will be assessed.

If you are living independently, you may be eligible to apply as an independent student and will have your own income and that of your spouse, cohabitant or civil partner assessed. You will have to provide documentary evidence to show you live independently.

The income limits increase to take account of the number of dependent children in your household and can be adjusted to take account of other people within your household who are attending a full-time course in further or higher education.

For academic year 2021-22, applications will be assessed on the gross income from all sources for the period January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2020. Gross income includes all income before any deductions such as income tax or PRSI.

If you or any party to your application experiences a negative change in income, which is likely to last for the duration of the course or the foreseeable future, you can apply to be assessed under change of circumstances whereby the income reference period for the application will be 2021.

To get an indication of your eligibility for funding, check out the eligibility reckoner on Susi’s website. This is a quick and easy way to explore your eligibility for funding before beginning an application. Susi opens for applications for the 2021-22 academic year in April.

Email queries to askbrian@irishtimes.com