LEAVING Cert students around the country are currently in the middle of the oral and practical exams that precede the main event in June. With so much attention on these, it would be easy to let paperwork slide, writes Gráinne McGuinness
LEAVING Cert students around the country are currently in the middle of the oral and practical exams that precede the main event in June. With so much attention on these, it would be easy to let paperwork slide. But any families hoping to avail of grant assistance for third-level education next year should know that the Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) application service is open, and the sooner they apply the better.
Susi provides assistance for approved full-time studies in further education (Post Leaving Certificate courses), higher education and postgraduate courses. In some circumstances help is also provided for students who wish to study outside of the State.
The amount students are eligible for depends on the family income — a household income of below €22,703 entitles the student to the maximum assistance. But depending on family size, reducing grants are available for families with incomes up to €64,700. Extra allowance is also made where families have more than one child in college.
I spoke to head of communications with Susi, Graham Doyle, and asked if students and their parents really need to prioritise grant applications, so many months away from college.
“Definitely,” was the answer.
Last year, they received 108,000 applications, awarding approximately 83,000 student grants.
The system is set up to be as straightforward as possible but, depending on your family’s situation, there could be a sizeable amount of paperwork involved.
Doyle was particularly keen to emphasise early action for parents who are self-employed, farming or in receipt of rental income.
“In these cases students or their families will be required to submit a full set of trading accounts for 2015 as well as confirmation that the tax returns for 2015 income have been made,” he explained.
Many of us delay tax returns but the Susi system will only look at the previous year’s finances so it is vital to get these sorted as soon as possible —they will look for 2015 accounts.
Being organised is key to getting a quick decision on your application.
“In cases of students from whom we require no documentation (because we have been able to verify all their information through our direct links with other bodies) we will be awarding and refusing straight away,” Doyle said.
“However, there are many applications where we must request documentation and we will be relying on students submitted requested documentation as soon as possible to allow us fully process such applications.”
I asked what were the most common mistakes and omissions the service encounters. “The key one is that students often leave it very late to apply. For new applications, our priority processing deadline is July 8.
“Last year we received more than 16,500 applications after the priority processing deadlines. Students do not need to wait to complete their Leaving Certificate or receive their results.
“They should apply and indicate their first choice course on their application.”
Students who plan on applying for a grant need to mention that in their CAO application. There is a box to be ticked to say they plan to apply and this enables Susi to get information directly from the CAO later in the application process.
Doyle added: “When making an account, a student is required to create a username, password and PIN number. These details should be remembered as they will be required by the student throughout the year to access his/her online Susi account.”
The Susi system also caters for people who are applying in their own right rather than based on parent’s income.
“I would advise students in that situation to visit our website www.susi.ie and to review the eligibility criteria,” Doyle said.
“They should pay particular attention to the income section and to make sure that they are applying as the correct class of applicant, ie dependent or independent. There are a number of factors to be considered when deciding what class of applicant a student is.”
Already in receipt of a grant? Don’t forget about your renewal application.
“Students who wish to renew their grants should access their online accounts to do so. The majority of students will be asked a small number of questions to ascertain whether there has been any change in circumstances that would impact on the grant that they had previously received.
“We do also randomly select a small proportion of renewal students for a full re-assessment. The priority processing deadline for renewal students is June 6. We will be writing out to all renewal students over the coming days.”
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