Monday 26 August 2019

Student accommodation: Can the Susi grant really cover rent costs?

Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O Connor speaking to media at Rockford Manor Presentation, Blackrock, Dublin
Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O Connor speaking to media at Rockford Manor Presentation, Blackrock, Dublin Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Aoife Walsh

A search for accommodation using the grant provided by Susi has shown a student could be left with less than enough to pay rent each week.

Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor said students could make use of Susi grant to help cover accommodation costs.

Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) is a means-tested grant that offers funding to eligible students in full time further and higher education, as well as eligible undergraduate students in the EU.

The Dún Laoghaire TD said: "I am very disappointed that student accommodation was put up in our universities and higher education institutes.

"But what I would say is there are Susi grants available, up to 48pc of our student population avails of student grants. So make sure now that you log on to the Susi application and make sure that you have filled out the application.

"If you are turned down by any chance you can appeal and again you know you can contact my office if you are a local constituent, but actually the Susi appeals system is very robust and they will also help you," she said.

However, a monthly breakdown of how much a student could receive from Susi has shown otherwise.

As outlined on the Susi website, if a student comes from a household that made a reckonable income of under €24,000 over the previous year, and if the student has to travel over 45 kilometers from home to college, they could be granted the special rate of €5,915.

This will be paid in nine installments over a monthly period, meaning each month, the student will receive €657.22 directly into their bank account.

Per week, this amounts to €164.30.

Based off of this budget, a search for an affordable room in Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor's constituency of Dun Laoghaire on property site showed one result - a single bedroom in an owner-occupied shared home in Dun Laoghaire for €90 per week. A double bedroom is also on offer in the same house for €110 per week.

The property overview explains that four people are currently living in the home; the owners and their two adult sons. The male-only let is available from Sunday evening to Friday.

Cereals, toast, milk, coffee and tea are provided for breakfast, but no evening meal is offered.

The property is served by Dublin Bus, including the 46A which will transport the student to University College Dublin, and the 75 route which goes to Dundrum and Tallaght. Dun Laoghaire Institute Of Art Design and Technology is a five minute walk away, while the Dun Laoghaire College of Further Education is a 20 minute walk.

In the event the student will need to make use of public transport, it is likely they will pay the €30 cap per week for the student leap card.

Provided that the student opts for the €90 single bedroom, after paying rent and transport costs the student is left with €44.30. Given the student cannot stay during the weekends, the remaining cost may go towards a bus or train home.

However, if the student lives in a household with an income under €39,875 over the previous year and lives more than 45 kilometers away,  they could be granted €3,025 paid over 9 months directly into their bank account. This will leave the student with €336.11 per month to cover rent, transport, and food costs.

This leaves the student with €84 per week.

Using the same example, the student would not even be able to pay the €90 per week for rent.

Susi provides two types of funding; the maintenance grant and fee grant, also known as student contribution.

The maintenance grant is described as a contribution to the students day-to-day living. The sum awarded is paid in 9 monthly installments directly into the students bank account. The sum given under the maintenance grant is determined by the level of income made by the household over the previous year, and the distance the student has to travel to college (under 45 kilometers or over).

The fee grant is paid directly to the approved third-level institution to cover the course fee.

A student's eligibility is assessed on the factors such as the students nationality, residency, whether or not you are attending an approved institution, and the duration of the course.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said today that the Susi grant isn't intended to cover the full cost of college, telling RTE Radio One's Drivetime that "at the moment there has to be investment from the parents side."

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