Sunday 21 December 2014

The clock is ticking on student grants: five days left to apply

Published 27/07/2014 | 02:30

STUDENT GRANT: Time to apply
STUDENT GRANT: Time to apply

Get your skates on if you're planning to apply for a student grant this year. As the deadline for grant applications is August 1, you have five days left.

More than 100,000 students are expected to apply for a new grant for third-level education this year. The student grant awarding body, SUSI, expects to award about 70,000 grants.

A couple of years ago, there were major delays in student grants coming through. Some students who started college in 2012 had to wait until January 2013 before their grants kicked in. Although these hold ups seem to be a thing of the past, it's still important to do what you can to ensure your grant comes through without delay.

How can I make sure my grant comes through on time?

Make sure your application is in on time and up to scratch. Get your parents' dates of birth right when filling out your application.

"Students often provide incorrect dates of birth for their parents when applying for the grant," said the SUSI spokesman. "This can be very problematic and can delay the processing of applications. These incorrect dates of birth will not match with the social welfare feed that we have, which in turn causes a delay."

Another thing which could hold up your application is if either you (if you are a mature student) or your parents (if they are providing for you) are self-employed - and a full set of trading accounts is not provided to SUSI. A full set of trading accounts must be provided to SUSI in such cases - as well as an acknowledgement from the Revenue Commissioners that a tax return has been filed for those accounts.

"Quite often, students apply to SUSI but there has been no tax return made to Revenue," said the SUSI spokesman. "This means that we are unable to fully process such applications. So the message here is for self-employed individuals to fill in tax returns early. That way, you will be in a position to provide us with your full set of accounts and the acknowledgement you received from Revenue that you have filed a tax return."

Self-employed people usually have until October 31 (or mid-November if filing electronically) to file their tax returns for 2013. Clearly you don't have the luxury of waiting until then if you are a self-employed parent with a child who needs to get their grant application approved - or if you are a mature student who is self-employed and applying for a grant.

How much is the grant and am I eligible for it?

The standard grant for undergraduate and PLC students is €3,025 - but this grant could be reduced or not paid at all, depending on income.

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

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.

It is useful to know exactly what and whose income counts before applying for a grant. That income can include social welfare payments, lump sum payments from retirement and redundancy, income from employment or maintenance arrangements, rental income, gifts and inheritances, interest earned on savings, and money made on investments. Certain allowances, such as child benefit, disability allowance and the carer's allowance are not taken into account.

Income earned by your parents and yourself will be considered if you are under the age of 23.

Income earned by mature students is taken into account and their parents' income might also come into play. The income of your parents or guardians counts if you're over the age of 23 and have been living with them from the October before the year you first started or re-entered college.

The income of your spouse, civil partner or cohabitant will be taken into account if you are over the age of 23 and not living with your parents or guardians. You must, however, be able to prove that you have been living independently of your parents from the October before the year you first started or re-entered college if you are applying for a grant on this basis.

You won't qualify for a SUSI grant if you have already received a grant elsewhere. Similarly, you may not be eligible if you won a scholarship for the course you're attending. You won't usually qualify for a maintenance grant from SUSI if you are getting the Back to Education Allowance or are participating in the State's Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme.

How and when must I apply for a grant?

You must apply for your grant online through www.grantsonline.ie. A new grant application must be sent in if you are starting a new course, changing a course, continuing a course but have never received a grant before, or are returning to a course after deferring it for a year.

You don't need to fill out a new grant application if you are merely renewing your grant. However, as the closing date for renewals was June 13, the deadline for those renewing their grant is long gone. You might still be able to renew your grant if you missed this deadline but it is important that you get in touch with SUSI immediately.

You must also provide supporting documentation to SUSI before your application can get the thumbs up. SUSI will write to you requesting these documents. Make sure you get these documents to SUSI on time.

You need to provide your Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) when applying for a grant. Contact the Department of Social Protection if you don't yet have one.

With five days to go, time is of the essence. Get cracking.

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