Written answers

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Student Grant Scheme

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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426. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she will raise the threshold for postgraduate SUSI grants to allow for the economic uncertainty due to Covid-19. [17259/20]

Norma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

For the 20/21 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.

Postgraduate students who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant under the Student Grant Scheme are eligible for a maintenance grant of up to €5,915; the income threshold in 2020/21 for this grant is €24,500. Qualifying postgraduate students may also be eligible to have their tuition fees paid up to a maximum fee limit of €6,270.

Alternatively, a postgraduate student may qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the cost of his/her fees. The income threshold for this payment is €31,500 for the 2020/2021 academic year.

If a student or party to their application experiences a change in circumstances that is not a temporary change and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future they can apply to SUSI to have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision.

In the case of a change of circumstances all household income, and not just the income of the person experiencing the change, will be assessed/reassessed on the basis of the current year (2020). Any award or adjustment will take effect from the month in which the change occurred.This provision may benefit some students whose income has fallen in 2020 due to Covid-19 issues.

My Department is fully aware of the difficulties being experienced by students and their families as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A working group on mitigating educational disadvantage is supporting ongoing responses to what is an evolving situation, to ensure the continuation of crucial funding sources such as SUSI grants, the 1916 Bursary Scheme, the Student Assistant Fund, Fund for Students with a disability and other allowances. All stakeholders in this group have worked to support learners without access to sufficient technology and to ensure the continuation of services offered by access and disability offices, guidance counsellors and counselling services.

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 students’ local Tax Offices or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.

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