Written answers

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Student Grant Scheme

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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183. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if applicants for higher education grants that worked during the Covid-19 emergency will not incur a reduction or cessation of SUSI grant entitlement in view of the fact that they worked as requested during the emergency; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13165/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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I am conscious of the difficulties being experienced by students and their families as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and of the importance of the Student Grant Scheme and related supports, such as the Student Assistance Fund and the Fund for Students with Disabilities. These supports have a fundamental role in assisting families who are putting their children through further and higher education.

Accordingly, the following arrangements have been put in place:

For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications will be assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019.

The means test arrangements of the Student Grant Scheme are applied nationally. Student grant applications are means tested on gross income from all sources earned inside and outside the State within a specified reference period. In the case of both employed and self-employed applicants, gross income, before deduction of income tax or universal social charge, is assessed with certain specified social welfare and health service executive payments excluded. Therefore, all income is assessed from the same starting point. 

The Student Grant Scheme provides for different levels of income thresholds where families have (i) less than 4 dependent children (ii) between 4 and 7 dependent children and (iii) 8 or more dependent children. In recognition of the additional cost to families where more than one person is attending college, income thresholds may also be increased by up to €4,830 for each additional family member attending college at the same time. In this way, the Student Grant Scheme is responsive to the individual circumstances of particular families.

The income threshold for the special rate of grant has been increased from €24,000 to €24,500 for the 2020 scheme, so as to ensure that students from families dependent on welfare will continue to be eligible for the special rate of grant. (This reflects the Budget 2019 increase to the maximum point of the weekly State Contributory Pension, plus maximum Qualified Adult Allowance for a person over 66 years).

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students in third-level institutions experiencing exceptional financial need can apply for support under the Student Assistance Fund. This Fund assists full-time and part-time students, in a sensitive and compassionate manner, who might otherwise be unable to continue their third level studies due to their financial circumstances. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the COVID-19 situation.

In addition, tax relief at the standard rate of tax may be claimed in respect of tuition fees paid for approved courses at approved colleges of higher education. Further information on this tax relief is available from student’s local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie


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