Minister announces details of wide-ranging review of grant scheme
The CAO has seen an early surge in applications for entry to college next September.
The figure is 2,000 ahead of where it was this time last year and currently stands at over 21,000.
The ongoing rise in Leaving Cert candidates, on the back of the baby boom in the early 2000s, is likely a key factor.
The early rush may also reflect the push to encourage students to get started well ahead of deadlines because of uncertainty around future lockdown and resections. This is aimed particularly at those applying for the DARE and HEAR schemes – which offer entry on reduced points to students with a disadvantage – who have to gather supporting documentation.
Covid may also be triggering a bounce in interest from mature applicants seeking a new career direction.
As the Leaving Cert class of 2021, and others, turn their thoughts to college entry, there is now a prospect of improved student grant supports, starting from next September.
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said there was likely to be an increase in grant holders next year as a result of the pandemic.
He announced details of a wide-ranging review of the Susi grants scheme, following formal Government approval of the terms of reference.
Consultants will be appointed and the report is expected next summer.
The minister hopes to be in a position to introduce some changes in the 2021/22 academic year, however, it is likely that more significant reforms will come in 2022.
The review will examine grant values and the income thresholds for eligibility, rates paid depending on distance from a student’s home to college, definition of an approved course, including part-time courses, and supports for post-graduate students.
It will also look at the overall, “real’ cost of further and higher education and will compare supports for students in Ireland with what’s offered in other countries.
Mr Harris said the scheme opened the door for many people to access further and higher education, but it had remained static despite significant changes in Irish society.
“We are likely to see an increase in grant holders next year as a result of the pandemic. I want this review to consider the challenges facing students and to find out what we can do better.”
The emerging CAO demand comes on the back of a record 49,657 CAO acceptances this autumn – up 5pc on 2019, after extra places were opened to adjust for the impact of calculated grades.
Even before the 2021 CAO race gets underway, it is expected a number of students who sat the postponed Leaving Cert will have secured places for 2021, based on extra points accrued in the exams.