Record numbers of students are expected to apply for grants in the coming academic year due to the volume of families affected by unemployment or reduced incomes.
Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) recorded a surge of 10,000 grant applications within a single day of opening its applications for the coming academic year. A spokeswoman said applications had grown to almost 30,000 by last week, mostly from those renewing their applications.
Policymakers expect a steep rise in overall application numbers due to the growing numbers on reduced incomes linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While grant applications are made on the basis of a household’s income last year, students can seek to be reassessed under the change of circumstances provision in the scheme.
Minister of State for higher education Mary Mitchell O'Connor said she has been working with the Higher Education Authority and Susi to make sure funding schemes are maintained and that supports will be available to anyone who needs them.
Ms Mitchell O’Connor said she anticipated a sharp increase in the number of applications for the 2020/21 academic year and the number of students seeking to be reassessed under the change of circumstances provision in the scheme.
“The Susi grant scheme contains enough flexibility to address matters which may arise due to Covid-19,” she said.
“Prospective applicants who have experienced a fall in income can seek to have their application reviewed under the change of circumstances provision within the scheme, provided they can demonstrate that any change in income is likely to obtain for the duration of the approved course or for the foreseeable future.
The window for renewal applications is due to remain open until November 2020, though applicants are encouraged to submit their details as early as possible.
Applicants do not need to have their Leaving Cert results or to have accepted a course in order to apply. They may simply supply the details of the course they hope to study and can update this choice if necessary.
Applicants are advised to use Susi’s online “eligibility reckoner” to get an indication of whether they are likely to be eligible for grant funding.
Grants are payable to students in Post-Leaving Cert courses, higher education and postgraduate courses. Students studying in approved courses abroad may also be eligible for grant aid.
Last year Susi recorded a total of 96,000 applications, which resulted in grants being drawn down by about 72,000 students.
The highest number of grants awarded was 84,000 during the 2016-17 academic year.
A spokeswoman for Susi said it was too early to estimate the total number of likely awards for 2020-21.