New college year: How student grant system SUSI works

Key issues: Where to live and how to afford cost of accommodation and maintenance

“We have an acute accommodation shortage and accommodation affordability crisis in Ireland which is the single biggest disrupter of prospective students securing the lifelong benefits of a college experience.” File photograph: Getty Images

“We have an acute accommodation shortage and accommodation affordability crisis in Ireland which is the single biggest disrupter of prospective students securing the lifelong benefits of a college experience.” File photograph: Getty Images

 

One of the biggest challenges facing returning and new college students this year is where to live and how to afford the cost of accommodation and maintenance – even if students are fortunate enough to find somewhere within commuting distance from their campus.

Media reports in recent days of young female students signing up to agencies providing companionship, and more, to older wealthy men may seem fanciful.

But, they demonstrate – if there is any truth behind the reports – the lengths some students are prepared to go to sustain themselves in college.

Many prospective students only listed courses on their CAO applications in colleges within commuting distance from their homes this year.

Look at the pattern of where students end up in The Irish Times schools’ progression data each year, and you will find a huge clustering effect around the nearest colleges to students’ homes.

There are also students who reported each year to be commuting from as far away as Cavan, Athlone, Kilkenny, to Dublin colleges daily, leaving home before 6am every morning and not returning before 9pm each night.

We have an acute accommodation shortage and accommodation affordability crisis in Ireland which is the single biggest disrupter of prospective students securing the lifelong benefits of a college experience – which involves more than simply going to lectures.

As a society, we have to confront the challenges of creating the circumstances where undergraduate and postgraduate study can occur in a manner which provides those involved with a basket of knowledge and skills to enrich their own lives, and the society they will shape following the completion of their studies.

We will all be the poorer if we fail in this task.

SUSI – Assisting access to further/higher education

The good news for many students is the support they receive from SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland).

It opened its online application system for the 2016/17 academic year on April 5th. They have received 96,000 applications to date, awarding approximately 56,000 student grants. SUSI provides financial assistance to eligible students in the form of maintenance grants and/or fees (or student contribution, where applicable).

What types of studies does SUSI fund?

SUSI provides assistance for approved full-time education in further education (Post-Leaving Certificate courses), higher education, postgraduate studies and also, in some cases, to students who wish to study abroad.

Eligible students attending further education (Post-Leaving Certificate courses) receive a maintenance grant, the value of which is determined by a couple of things, namely the level of reckonable income in the household for the previous year and the distance that the student travels from home to college (more or less than 45km).

Eligible students attending higher education, as well as receiving the maintenance grant, also have their fees/student contribution covered, whichever applies to the student.

The value of the student contribution for the 2016/17 academic year is €3,000. For mature students going back to study, it should be noted that those in receipt of a Back to Education allowance, from the Department of Social Protection, are not eligible for a SUSI maintenance grant.

Eligible students at postgraduate level do not receive a maintenance grant, however they can receive a contribution towards the cost of fees.

Studying abroad?

Eligible students attending approved courses in approved institutions outside of the Republic, at undergraduate-level only, receive a maintenance grant from SUSI.

There is no funding available towards fees and it should be noted that there is no funding available at further education or postgraduate education (except for some courses in four institutions in Northern Ireland) for students studying outside the State.

Processing

SUSI operates a priority processing system, dealing with applications by the date that they are received.

The national awarding authority has made a significant change to its processes for the 2016/17 academic year – enabling it to award grants to eligible students before they receive their Leaving Cert results and CAO offers.

These awards are based on the course information provided to SUSI by the students when completing their application forms.

The net result is that approximately 15,000 students receiving their Leaving Cert results on Wednesday last already knew that they had been awarded their grants.

CAO offers

Following the first round of CAO offers on Monday, SUSI has received numerous queries from students who are going to attend different courses to the ones that they stated in their SUSI applications.

SUSI has the following advice for students: “If you opted in your CAO application to allow the CAO to share information with SUSI then you do not need to do anything. They will receive these details directly from the CAO.

“If you have already been awarded a student grant for your first choice of course, you will receive an updated grant award letter when they receive details of your accepted course through the CAO.”

If you didn’t opt in to allow the CAO share information with them, however, you will need to submit an online Final Course Acceptance form through your online SUSI account. Similarly, if you were awarded a grant to study at undergraduate level but didn’t receive an offer through the CAO, and will instead be attending a PLC course, you will need to inform them by submitting an online Final Course Acceptance form.

Grants

The first payment dates for grants for Higher Education is September 23rd and, for Further Education (PLC), it is October 21st. Students must be confirmed registered by their institutions to SUSI before they can receive any payments. Furthermore, they must ensure that they have input their bank details to their online SUSI account.

Maintenance payments are then paid in nine monthly instalments directly into the student’s bank accounts while the fee/contribution is paid directly to the institutions.

Is it too late to apply?

No, it will remain open until early November. Visit susi.ie