Your Money: SUSI could be your best pal in college
The grant scheme isn't just for the low-paid - everyone should look into it
With the Leaving Cert only a few weeks away (here comes the sun!), students have enough on their plate without worrying about college costs, but parents may be concerned about how much they'll be spending over the next four years, especially if their child is going to be living away from home.
Every year I hear from people who didn't realise they may have qualified for a grant. Although the SUSI system is well known, many think it's like social welfare; only available to those on very low incomes. In fact, SUSI - Student Universal Support Ireland - gives out capital and maintenance grants for families with incomes right up to €54,240 (see panel).
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The online application system for the 2019/20 academic year has just opened, and as it's dealt with on a first-come-first-served basis, should can start the process immediately. You do not need to wait for lLaving Cert or CAO results.
There's a bit of paperwork involved. It can all be uploaded easily and because SUSI pays the college directly in September, don't worry if your child gets his or her second, third or 10th choice - the grant goes to the right place.
How does it work?
SUSI will receive 99,000 applications this year, and last year 81pc were awarded either a capital or maintenance payment totalling €353m.
SUSI's Aoife Greene says: "Our quick and easy Eligibility Reckoner will give students an indication as to their eligibility for student grant funding. They can find all of the necessary information including videos and detailed guidance notes for making an application (www.susi.ie). We also have a responsive telephone and e-mail support desk that can deal with any queries."
For first years, 80pc of applications are processed by the end of September, providing certainty around offer time.
All you have to do for now is indicate your first preference (or indeed, any preference will do) to get your application started. Priority is given to those received before July 11.
You get a student number, which you can track online, and many do not have to supply any supporting documents at all. If you do, it's clear what and by when.
What can I get
There are two grant types: the Student Contribution (currently €3,000, for which the grant pays either 100pc or 50pc), and/or a Maintenance Grant which is a monthly payment dependent on how far the student lives from college (minimum 45km) and how many other dependent children the household has. You can still qualify for something if the distance is under 45km but the financial bar is higher.
A 'special rate' of grant is payable to some families who are on social welfare (earning under €24,000 a year) which is additional.
The point is to apply; if you're not eligible you have lost nothing. And, by the way, it is your student child who applies - not mammy! He or she is an adult now, it's their PPS number on the form, and this is part of becoming an adult!
Student fees aside, going to college is expensive. Zurich Life surveys this every year and says it's around €19,576 if you're living at home, and a whopping €36,044 living away over the length of a degree course. The other costs are mainly accommodation (€4,117 a year), transport (€303), and miscellaneous extras such as a phone, socialising, books etc (€2,172).
There is tax relief available on student fees. The first €3,000 is exempt (coincidentally the Student Contribution level). However, this is a family limit, so if you have more than one child at college, claim the relief up to €7,000.