The Union of Students in Ireland said they welcome the SUSI grant changes calling them a step forward in higher education and social mobility.
Students may deduct €3,809 of their holiday earnings from family income before the assessment for grant eligibility is done, but that is being raised to €4,500 for the 2016/2017 grants, the first increase in 15 years.
With the SUSI grant changes more third level students will be applicable for a grant next year and some students will also be entitled to higher payments. The student support grants are given on a means-tested basis and designed to financially assist students in higher education. Family income is taken into account for the mean-testing to check for eligibility.
“Earning money in part-time or summer jobs empowers students and makes them feel more self-sufficient and independent.” Kevin Donoghue, USI President, said. “The increase in the level of holiday wages a student can earn is a positive step forward in higher education and social mobility.”
A high percentage of grant applicants will benefit from the holiday earnings change, allowing students to receive almost €700 more a year without damaging their chances of being approved for a grant.
“€700 is a huge amount for students,” Donoghue said. “It could be a rent deposit for some or ease the cost of student living for others. USI welcomes these changes because the more funding that goes into student support grant, the more young people who can afford to go to college. As well as the increase in the amount students can earn without it impacting on their eligibility, the qualifying criteria for receiving the higher rate of maintenance grant will be extended, which means more people can apply for a bigger grant.”
The changes in the SUSI grant application process also include greater flexibility in rules applying to 'second chance' students, to the advantage of mature students returning to study after a break of five years.
SUSI has opened for applications earlier than ever this year, which, combined with improved electronic data sharing with a number of government departments and agencies, will allow for earlier decision making and grant payments. Last year, SUSI processed more than 108,000 applications, and awarded in excess of 83,000 grants, and this year it expects applications to surpass 110,000.