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03 April, 2017 - Minister Bruton announces opening of €380m Student Grant Scheme for 2017

Key Changes being introduced; 1,100 Post Grad Students to Receive Grants

Changes to “Second Chance” for Mature Students

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., today (Monday) announced the opening of the Student Grant Scheme for applications for the 2017/18 academic year, and highlighted a number of improvements for some of the most disadvantaged students.

SUSI, which administers the student grant scheme, anticipates that it will receive over 105,000 applications for the 2017/18 academic year. It will provide some €380m in student supports that will benefit more than 80,000 students. Important changes are being made to the scheme this year.

Key changes being introduced this year include:

  • Maintenance grants to support 1,100 of the most disadvantaged postgraduate students
  • A change to the “Second Chance” provision will allow Mature Students who previously dropped out to complete a PLC programme within the five year break period  

Today’s announcement is part of a suite of measures being taken by Minister Bruton across the education system to tackle educational disadvantage and help people to achieve their potential. This includes the development of a series of pilot schemes will aim is to encourage innovation and creativity in schools, and the extension of DEIS to bring 79 schools into DEIS for the first time from next September, and provide 30 schools already within DEIS with additional supports. This will be the first expansion of the programme since 2009.

In announcing the opening of the Student Grant Scheme, Minister Bruton said:

“Education has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage. I secured additional funding in Budget 2017 which has allowed me to extend the student grant scheme to 1,100 Post Graduate students. This marks the delivery of a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make the Irish education and training service the best in Europe within a decade, and will provide Post Graduate students with an important support.

“SUSI is now open for business for 2017. The early opening date will facilitate earlier decisions for students on their grant applications and therefore provide students with greater certainty about the financial support that will be available to them. I would encourage students who think they might be eligible for support to submit their online applications to SUSI as soon as possible to ensure that they are processed as quickly as possible.”

The priority closing dates for the 2017/18 student grant scheme are the 13th July 2017 for new applicants and the 15th June 2017 for renewal students. 

ENDS

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The main changes to the 2017 are as follows:

Maintenance grants for the most disadvantaged Postgraduate Students

Additional funding of €4 million was secured in Budget 2017 to facilitate the reinstatement of full maintenance grants from September 2017, for the most disadvantaged postgraduate students. This will benefit approximately 1,100 post graduate students who meet the eligibility criteria for the special rate of maintenance grant. It reverses the budgetary cut that was imposed on this cohort of students in 2012.

Second Chance Students

The existing student grant scheme includes a “second chance” provision. This allows a mature student who has previously attended but not successfully completed an approved course, to apply to SUSI as a new applicant, following a break in study of five years. 

However, under the current scheme an individual who drops out of a higher education programme and then decides to pursue a PLC programme during the five year period, has to wait for a further five years after the completion of the PLC programme before s/he can be considered for funding by SUSI. This acts as a disincentive for individuals to re-engage with the education system during the five year period following their initial drop out.

The 2017 scheme will address this issue by allowing a second chance student to undertake a course below undergraduate level within the five year break, without being penalised in terms of extending the 5 year period. The normal rules of ‘progression’ will still apply in that a student must be progressing to a higher level course when s/he returns to college after the five year break.

Threshold increase for the special rate of grant

The income threshold for the special rate of grant is aligned with the highest rate of social welfare support (the Old Age Contributory Pension) so as to ensure that students from families dependent on welfare continue to be eligible for the special rate of grant. 

The threshold has been increased from €22,703 to €23,000 for the 2017 scheme. This reflects the Budget 2016 changes to the Old Age Contributory Pension. The Budget 2016 change will impact on the 2017 scheme as incomes from 2016 will be assessed as part of the means assessment. The threshold will be reviewed again in 2018 so that it reflects the Budget 2017 changes to the Old Age Contributory Pension.

Payments included as “income disregards”

The following will be included as income disregards for the purposes of calculating reckonable income:

  • The 1916 Centenary Bursary Scheme
  • The All Ireland Scholarship Scheme

Prescribed Students:

The nationality requirements for the student grant scheme are set out in section 14 of the Student Support Act 2011 and regulation 5 of the Student Support Regulations. In all cases it is the student that must meet the nationality requirements in his/her own right to qualify for a student grant.

The regulations currently define persons as ‘students’ if they are married to or in a civil partnership with, an Irish national residing in the State; or are the dependent child of such a person. The change to the 2017 scheme will also recognise for the first time, the dependent child of a person who has acquired Irish Citizenship by naturalization, residing in the State

The ‘student’ so recognised will still have to meet the nationality requirements of the student grant scheme in their own right.