Making Cents: Smart students grab an early date with SUSI

Setting off to college this coming September? Gráinne McGuinness has some sund financial advice for you.

Leaving Cert students and their families still have five weeks to go until the start of the State exams, followed by a nervous wait until the results in August.

Although it will be several months until college places are offered, students can already make a start on sorting out their finances for the year ahead.

The SUSI grant system opened for applications in April and Graham Doyle, head of communications and customer service, advises students to take early advantage it.

“Following the advanced processing of grant applications achieved by SUSI last year, we had awarded [grants to] almost 20,000 Leaving Certificate students before they received their exam results and CAO offers, providing financial certainty much earlier than had ever been done previously.

"This is something that we hope to build on in the upcoming year and I would encourage students to submit their applications as early as possible.”

In 2016, the awarding body processed more than 105,000 applications, with 83,000 students receiving funding for the current academic year.

The priority closing date for new applications is July 13, but, given the numbers involved, it makes sense to get your application in sooner. SUSI paid 50,000 students in September 2016, rising to 68,000 students by the end of October.

That means 15,000 students were into at least November before their grants were sorted out and payments made. Given the many upfront costs involved in starting the new college year, it is worth making every effort to be one of the students who is paid in September.

Most Leaving Cert students will be assessed on their family’s income and the current grant scheme has varying levels of financial support, depending on income and the number of children in college. Families whose total income is under €23,000 receive the most support, but the thresholds are relatively high and families with incomes of more than €60,000 may still be eligible for some assistance.

Mr Doyle added: “I would encourage students to visit our website, and review the eligibility criteria for student grant funding prior to making their applications. We have an online grant eligibility reckoner that enables students to answer a short set of questions, following which they will be given an indication as to their eligibility for student grant funding.”

Students are free to take up work in the summer and at other times, as they are allowed up to €4,500 in holiday earnings, without any effect on their grant eligibility.

For PAYE workers, there may not be much paperwork involved in the application, as SUSI can verify a lot of financial information through direct links with other bodies.

However, others, particularly farmers, the self-employed, and those in receipt of rental income, will need to provide documentation and should start preparing now. SUSI assesses applications based on the income for the previous year, so in the circumstances above, applicants will have to provide a full set of trading accounts for 2016, plus confirmation that the tax returns for 2016 income have been made.

Another area that can be fraught with concern is cases of parental separation or divorce, but the website offers advice on how to complete the application in this situation. The student will be assessed on the basis of the parent they primarily live with and can include any maintenance support as income.

SUSI may request documentary evidence of the separation/divorce. In cases where the parent the student lives with has remarried, that does not automatically mean the new spouse’s income will be included. This only happens where the spouse has formally become a legal guardian of the student.

Existing SUSI recipients should also get organised, as the priority closing date for renewal applications is June 15.

As many as 83,000 students have received written alerts from SUSI to inform them of the process for renewing and in most cases it will be quite straightforward.

Deal of the week

Sky have launched a nocontract online streaming service with entertainment, movies and sports channels, called NOW TV. The aim of the new service is to offer flexible viewing with no contract. It also caters to the growing number of viewers who prefer to watch shows on devices other than their television.

NOW TV is available to anyone in Ireland with an internet connection and offers different options depending on the type of entertainment you are interested in. An ‘Entertainment Month Pass’ for €15 per month gives access to 10 live streaming TV channels including Sky Atlantic and Sky One as well as access to more than 250 on demand TV boxsets. For movie buffs, the same price will buy access to more than 1,000 movies on demand.

The Sky Sports Pass gives access to seven live Sky Sports channels but is priced differently — viewers can choose a day pass for €10, a weekly pass for €15 or a monthly pass for €50.


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