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Friday 30 September 2016

Five must-knows for getting your student grant over the finishing line

Published 10/04/2016 | 02:30

When applying for your student grant make sure that all your paperwork is in order
When applying for your student grant make sure that all your paperwork is in order

Anyone planning to apply for a student grant this year can do so now. The student grant system for the coming academic year opened early last week.

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Although the deadline for getting your grant application in is at least a couple of months away, it is a good idea to apply early. Doing so gives you a better chance to correct any mistakes or omissions you make - and ultimately, to get your grant.

Here are five things worth knowing about the student grant before you apply.

Get your PPS numbers right

You must put your PPS number - and possibly those of your parents, spouse, civil partner or cohabitant - on your grant application form.

One of the most common mistakes made by students applying for grants is putting the wrong PPS numbers on the form. This can delay your grant application.

Don't be late

"Students sometimes leave it very late to apply for the student grant," said a spokesman for Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), which runs the student grant scheme.

"Last year, over 16,500 students applied after the priority processing deadline (the deadline you must meet to ensure your application gets priority)." Having a late application in could delay your grant - meaning you receive it well into the academic year, putting you under financial pressure in the interim.

The deadline for those renewing their grant applications for the coming academic year is June 6. The deadline for those applying for a grant for the first time is July 8.

Get the paperwork in on time

Be sure to get any documentation needed to support your grant application to SUSI on time.

"If we need documentation from students, we will write out to them, detailing what is required," said the SUSI spokesman.

"There are instances where students don't return the documentation in time. If they are having any trouble getting the information requested, they should contact us to let us know."

Failure to get the right documentation to SUSI could see you lose out on your grant.

Check if you're eligible

About 25,000 people had their application for a grant either turned down or cancelled last year. The main reason grants were turned down was because their family's income (or their own income if they were an independent mature student) was over the limit that would otherwise have qualified them for a grant.

The income earned by parents, guardians, spouses and students comes into play when determining whether or not a grant is paid.

The standard maintenance grant (which is designed to help students with day-to-day living costs) for undergraduate and PLC students is €3,025 - but this grant could be reduced or not paid at all, depending on income and how near the student's home is to college.

Undergraduate or PLC students won't usually get a full grant if their income - or the income earned by certain people connected to them - is over €39,875. The income threshold will be higher if there are more than four dependent children in the student's family - or if more than one child in the family is attending college.

Students from families in most financial need - that is, where the total household income is no more than €22,703 - qualify for a higher grant of up to €5,915.

Undergraduate students may also qualify for a fee grant (on top of the maintenance grant). The fee grant either covers the student contribution charge or tuition fees.

Postgraduate students can only apply for grants towards the cost of their student fees.

Get ready for Eircode

Students who live more than 45km from their college are entitled to a higher grant than those living within a 45km radius.

For example, students from families in most financial need receive a grant of €5,915 a year if they live more than 45km from college, compared with €2,375 for those living nearer.

The maximum grant paid to those whose families have a higher income (that is, €39,875 or more) is €3,025 if they live more than 45km from college, compared with €1,215 otherwise.

This year, SUSI is using Eircodes to determine how far students live from their college.

Although SUSI says that the manner in which it calculates distance is not changing, the use of Eircodes could push people within the 45km cut-off point. So students who are on the cusp of the 45km radius could see their grant more than halve if they are found to be within the cut-off point.

"This year, Eircode co-ordinates will automatically calculate distance for us," said the spokesman for SUSI. "If students have any queries about the calculated distance, they can request a review."

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