Written answers

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Department of Education and Skills

Student Universal Support Ireland

Photo of Robert TroyRobert Troy (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)
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148. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the recourse available in the case of a person (details supplied). [23101/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The student grant scheme, administered by SUSI, provides maintenance grants to students who meet the prescribed conditions of funding, including those relating to nationality, residency, previous academic attainment and means.

Student maintenance grants are payable at either the adjacent or non-adjacent rate. The distance to be measured is the shortest non-tolled most direct route from the student’s residence to the institution attended. The adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable in the case of students whose normal residence is 45km or less from the approved institution which he or she is attending. The non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant is payable in all other cases.

The measurement of the distances relating to the award of adjacent or non-adjacent rates of student grant is a matter for SUSI, the grant awarding authority. The distance measurement for student grant rates is governed by Article 27(3)(a) and (b) of the Student Grant Scheme 2020. This provides that the relevant distance will be measured in line with agreed guidelines.

The guidelines require that the shortest most direct route between the applicant's normal residence and the institution being attended should apply. In determining the shortest most direct route, the awarding authority shall establish:

- the method for measuring a route; and

- the factors to be taken into account in establishing and measuring a route.

SUSI has progressively introduced a number of measures that are intended to make the Student Grant Scheme more efficient for students. One of these measures was the introduction of Eircode which has helped to reduce processing times for applicants.

The distance is always measured from the student's normal residence to the campus the student is attending and never the reverse. The distance is always measured avoiding tolls. The 'depart at' time is set to 1am to ensure consistency by measuring each SUSI Applicant's adjacency at the same time

The decision on eligibility for student grant assistance is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

If an individual applicant considers that she/he has been unjustly refused a student grant, or that the rate of grant awarded is not the correct one, she/he may appeal, in the first instance, to SUSI. Where an individual applicant has had an appeal turned down in writing by SUSI and remains of the view that the scheme has not been interpreted correctly in his/her case, an appeal may be submitted to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe. Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie.

My officials advised that the student in question has engaged fully in the statutory appeals process and that on 1stSeptember 2020 the independent Student Grant Appeals Board upheld the decisions of the grant awarding authority and the Appeals Officer and determined that the distance from the student’s residence to the relevant third level institution was under 45km and the adjacent rate of grant was the correct rate of grant to be awarded.

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 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. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis.

Rose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein)
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151. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the cost to the Exchequer if SUSI grant eligibility was calculated on gross income rather than net income if the income threshold remained at the same numerical value; the cost if SUSI grant eligibility was calculated on gross income rather than net income if the numerical value of income thresholds were increased by 10%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23062/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The assessment of means under the student grant scheme is based on gross income from all sources, with certain social welfare and health service executive payments being exempt.

While SUSI has statistics on those students who have applied for grant support and gross income only, they can estimate with some degree of certainty, what impact changes to the thresholds might have for those students on lower income levels, the accuracy of its estimates become less reliable at the higher income levels. Prospective applicants on higher incomes may not have applied for support as their income was above the relevant threshold. As such, it is not possible to accurately cost the number of additional students who may qualify for support, if the thresholds are increased. Allowing for the limitations regarding the accuracy of the costings, it is estimated that a 1% increase in the income thresholds would cost in the region of €2m and a 10% increase would cost in the region of €20m

The above figures do not include any changes to the income thresholds for the special rate of maintenance grants which are linked to long-term social welfare payments nor do they include any changes to the post-graduate income thresholds.

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