Written answers

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Student Universal Support Ireland

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael)
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610. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to an appeal by a person (details supplied) in order that the changes in income of the self-employed due to Covid-19 and not on the pandemic unemployment payment can be used when reassessing the higher education grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25628/21]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Under the Student Grant Scheme, grant assistance is available to eligible students attending an approved course in an approved institution who meet the terms and conditions of funding, including those relating to residency, means, nationality and previous academic attainment. 

The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for SUSI to determine. All applications are assessed nationally with reference to the terms and conditions of the relevant student grant scheme, which are applied impartially to all applicants.

Applications for a maintenance grant are means-tested based on the reckonable income from the previous tax year.  For the 2020/21 academic year, student grant applications were assessed based on gross income from all sources for the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019.

However, Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020 provides for a review of eligibility during the academic year if there is a permanent change in circumstance in respect of certain specified criteria, such as reckonable income.  Applicants must provide satisfactory documentation to the awarding authority to confirm that the reduction in income is permanent. Examples of documentation for income from self-employment include confirmation that a business has ceased trading or confirmation that the income from self-employment has been replaced with a means-tested social welfare payment. Fluctuations in income from self-employment are not considered a permanent change in circumstances for student grant purposes. However, an applicant will receive the benefit of any decrease in income over the year when grant eligibility for the following academic year is reviewed.

Any student who believes their student grant application has been assessed incorrectly may avail of the opportunities to appeal to SUSI and subsequently to the independent Student Grants Appeals Board within the required timeframe (i.e. not later than 30 days after the notification of the determination of the appeals officer to the applicant). Such appeals can be made by the appellant on line via www.studentgrantappeals.ie

Apart from the Student Grant Scheme, students can apply for supports under the Student Assistance Fund. The 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. Institutions have the autonomy to maximise the flexibility in the Student Assistance Fund to enable HEIs to support students during the Covid-19 pandemic. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the higher education institution attended. This fund is administered on a confidential, discretionary basis. 

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 a student’s local Tax Office or from the Revenue Commissioners website, www.revenue.ie.


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