The current recession will see a huge increase in the number of people returning to college, including mature students and graduates wishing to up skill. This will put added pressure on the student grant system.
Changes in the circumstances of the parents of students, who have lost their jobs or have suffered a decrease in salary, will also result in more students applying for grants for the first time.
USI President, Gary Redmond, said: “Last year, many students waited up to six months into the academic year for their first grant instalment. In the aftermath of this, USI is urging all current and new students to submit their maintenance grant application as soon as possible."
As part of the student grant scheme 2011, all information and forms are available on www.studentfinance.ie.
"By applying for grants now, students are allowing additional time to ensure that any issues with their applications can be resolved in time for them to receive their grant at the start of term," he added.
Students attending an Institute of Technology should apply to their local VEC, while university students should apply to their local authority.
Leaving Certificate students can apply now for their grant and do not have to wait for the CAO results.
Meanwhile, students who did not apply for a grant last year, may still apply and qualify for one this year.
For the academic year beginning 2011, there is a new level of grant, which covers half of the new student contribution.
"September can be a hugely expensive time for many students with upfront costs such as accommodation deposits, books and transport to name a few. It is very important that families complete their forms now to ensure that their grant payment arrives in good time to help meet these costs," Redmond concluded.
Many students can now apply online, see attached list of awarding authorities accepting grant applications.
USI will continue to campaign to reverse the recent grant cuts of up to 60 percent by the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn TD.