The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., today announced the opening of the Student Grant Scheme for applications for the 2018/19 academic year and highlighted a number of improvements that will benefit some of the most disadvantaged students.
The Minister’s announcement coincides with SUSI (Student Universal Support Ireland) opening its online application system for grant applications for the 2018/19 academic year. The earlier opening date, will facilitate the earlier acceptance of grant applications and the consequent benefit for students of earlier decisions and greater certainty on their grant applications.
SUSI processed a total 103,300 grant applications in the 2017/18 academic year with almost 82,000 applicants assessed as eligible for grant support. It is anticipated that a similar number will apply for grant support for the 2018/19 academic year.
Over €400m has been allocated in 2018 for access measures in further and higher education. This includes various targeted supports under the National Access Plan (2015-2019) and circa €370m for student grants, including an additional €3m secured in Budget 2018 for the rolling costs associated with the reintroduction of maintenance grants for the most disadvantaged students.
Some of the key changes to the student grant scheme in 2018 include a number of additional income disregards, an extension to the qualifying criteria to receive the special rate of maintenance grant and an increase in the reckonable income threshold for the special rate of maintenance grant.
In announcing the opening of the Student Grant Scheme for 2018, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said:
“One of the key goals of the Action Plan for Education (2016-2019) is ‘to improve the progress of learners at risk of educational disadvantage or learners with special educational needs’. The Student Grant Scheme and other targeted access initiatives under the National Access Plan, provide the key architecture in further and higher education which support learners at risk of disadvantage.
I am delighted to have secured an additional €4m in Budget 2018 for targeted access initiatives which will support the most vulnerable groups wishing to access higher education. This additional money coupled with the improvements made in the 2018 scheme, will target the most disadvantaged students and enable them to develop to their full potential.”
The priority closing dates for the 2018/19 scheme are the 14th June 2018 for renewal applicants and the 12th July 2018 for new applicants.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The main changes for the 2018 Scheme and Regulations are as follows:
Payments included as “income disregards”
The following are now being included as income disregards for the purposes of calculating reckonable income:
- Cost of Education Allowance
- Domestic Water Services Refund
- Widowed or Surviving Civil Partner Grant
Eligible payments for the special rate of grant
The following payment is now being included as an eligible payment for the special rate of grant:
- Partial Capacity Benefit payment where the recipient retains an underlying entitlement to Invalidity Pension.
Increase in the threshold 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 will continue to be eligible for the special rate of grant. The threshold has been increased from €23,000 to €23,500 for the 2018 scheme. This reflects the Budget 2017 increase to the maximum point of the weekly Old Age Contributory Pension, plus maximum Qualified Adult Allowance for a person over 66 years.