Proposed farmer asset test for college grants has been scrapped

SUSI, the body that awards grants for third-level students, has opened for applications for the 2014/2015 academic year.

All college student grant applications are processed through SUSI, unless a student is currently completing their college course and has been in receipt of a grant from another awarding authority, such as a VEC.

Third-level tuition fees are generally paid by the State in the case of Irish residents who are completing their first qualifying third-level course.

However, a student contribution of €2,750 is not generally covered.

This student contribution is akin to the previous regime of registration fees.

The student grant offered by SUSI can take a number of forms, including a payment towards the student contribution and/or a maintenance grant.

The maintenance grant is a contribution towards a student’s living costs.

Since 2011, all grant applications are now made through the online www.susi.ie portal. This replaces the old system where applications were made to VECs and other awarding authorities.

Grants are available in respect of certificate, diploma and degree level approved courses — these include approved Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, approved Undergraduate courses, and approved Postgraduate courses.

The type of grant available depends on the course being attended by the student and whether the course they are taking is in Ireland or abroad. To qualify for the grant, three conditions must be filled:

* You must satisfy a nationality test, all Irish and EU nationals satisfy this criterion.

* You must satisfy a residency test, you must be resident in Ireland for at least three of the previous five years.

* You must satisfy a means test, based on the student’s own income together with parents’ income if the student was habitually resident with the parents prior to taking up the college course.

For students applying for a college grant for the first time for the 2014/2015 academic year, the means test is based on the income earned in 2013.

For farmers and the self employed, the business accounts will need to be prepared that bit earlier than normal, given that the closing date for grant applications is August 1, 2014, yet the tax deadline does not expire until October or November if using the Pay and file online facility.

Thankfully, the proposed asset test for farmers has been scrapped, with grants assessed entirely based on the income of the individual and if living at home, the income of their parents.

The non-adjacent rates of grant apply to students whose habitual residence is more than 45 km from the college being attended.

Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, all is not lost. It may be possible for the payer of college fees to claim tax relief on college fees in some circumstances, in particular where parents are paying the student contribution or college fees for more than one child within the same academic year.

For leaving certificate students who may be unsure whether they will be attending college for 2014/2015, or indeed where you are unsure whether you will qualify for a grant, the best advice is to apply to SUSI prior to the deadline of August 1, 2014, to ensure your application will be processed.

Full details are available at the www.susi.ie website.


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