Supports available to reduce the cost of college
College Choice: First SUSI payment due on September 25th
The Union of Students in Ireland in conjunction with the Private Residential Tenancies Board have launched the Student Finance and Accommodation Guide. Photograph: Iain White
Securing a place in college is just the first hurdle for many students. The next one is making sure you can meet the costs of your education for the duration of your course.
If your family income falls below the thresholds for Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi), you will qualify for a certain level of support from the taxpayer, including a grant to cover all or part of the €3,000 annual registration charge.
If you have just secured a third-level place and believe you may be eligible for a grant, you can still apply to Susi, although it is already three weeks past Susi’s deadline of August 1st for “priority” treatment.
Applications can be made on susi.ie where you can self-assess using the eligibility reckoner.
The criteria used are:
nNationality: You must be Irish, from the EU/EEA, a Swiss national or have specific leave to remain in the country.
nResidency: You must have been resident in Ireland for three of the last five years to be eligible for both the student contribution (fees element) and a maintenance grant. If you were not resident in Ireland but were resident in the EU/EEA or Switzerland, then you may be eligible for the student contribution (fees element).
nPrevious education: You must be progressing in education. For Leaving Certificate students entering third-level education for the first time, progression is not an issue. However, if you have previously been in further or higher education and completed a course at a particular level, you would be ineligible for funding if you wished to do another course at the same level.
nApproved course/college: Susi only provides funding for full-time courses in approved institutions.
nIncome: For the 2015-16 academic year, Susi will assess an application with reference to income earned in the 2014 year. Whose income is calculated depends on a number of different factors and students should visit the Susi website to familiarise themselves with these.
After an online application is received by Susi, an initial assessment is carried out to determine what documentation is required to support the application.
The volume of documentation required and requested by Susi has decreased significantly since it first came into operation.
However, it is very important when Susi writes to you requesting supporting documentation, you make sure to return the requested documentation in a timely and complete manner.
Students who have ticked the Susi option on their CAO application forms will receive the course details directly from the CAO.
However, students who did not tick the Susi option on their CAO application forms and students who may not have got what they wanted through the CAO and are going to do a PLC course in 2015-16 will be required to submit an online final course acceptance (FCA) form.
In terms of payment, there has been a change introduced for the 2015-16 academic year. Previously, there were three maintenance payments made before Christmas and six after Christmas. However, there will be four maintenance payments made before Christmas with five after Christmas in 2015-16.
More than half of all students do not receive a grant. They are therefore liable for the €3,000 registration charge, alongside meeting their accommodation and living costs.
If you have been offered a CAO place this week, do not commit to accepting your place without a clear financial plan to see you through to your final examinations next summer.
Otherwise, you will find yourself becoming progressively more stressed and unable to study effectively as the winter sets in.
Getting part-time work may not be possible, and even if it were available, it may not be compatible with your lectures, practicals, tutorials and study commitment. Colleges do have emergency distress funds but they are quite limited and can only be accessed in the most difficult circumstances.