Thursday, 24 September 2020

Questions (195)

Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Question:

195. Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if SUSI applications for the 2021-2022 academic year will consider the fact that many students were on the Covid-19 payment due to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic (details supplied). [26093/20]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

The main support available to students is the statutory based Student Grant Scheme where students are studying for the first time or are progressing to study at a higher level e.g. progressing to postgraduate study. To qualify for grant support, a student has to meet various criteria such as means, residency, nationality and progression. The decision on eligibility for a student grant is a matter, in the first instance, for the centralised student grant awarding authority SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) to determine.

Applications for 2020/2021 academic year are currently being assessed. The eligibility criteria for student grants are reviewed annually by the Department and approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. All proposals made in relation to education expenditure, including student grants, will be considered in the context of Budget 2021.

For the 2020/21 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. However, 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 have their application assessed under the change in circumstances provision, Article 32 of the Student Grant Scheme 2020 of the relevant Student Grant Scheme. Further information in relation to student grant assistance is available from SUSI’s website, www.susi.ie. The telephone number for SUSI’s Helpdesk is 0761 087 874.

A postgraduate student may qualify to have a €2,000 contribution made towards the cost of fees. The income threshold for this payment is €31,500 for the 2020/21 academic year, increasing relative to the number of family dependents. A postgraduate student who may qualify for the special rate of grant under the Student Grant Scheme may be eligible to have their post graduate tuition fees paid up to the maximum fee limit of €6,270.

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 an appeals officer in 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 (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, the Deputy will be aware of the recently announced €168m funding package for the return to education. This package includes a €10m access support package for higher education students. I have approved the allocation of €8.1m of this funding to top up the Student Assistance Fund (SAF). The SAF 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 situation. Details of this fund are available from the Access Office in the third level institution attended.

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 including approved undergraduate and postgraduate courses in EU Member States and in non-EU countries. Further information on this tax relief is available from a student's local Tax office or from the Revenue Commissioners website www.revenue.ie