Donegal-based Guidance Counsellor Rory White from Careers Advice Northwest gives an in-depth guide to the
money matters of third-level education.
Going to college can be very expensive with fees, accommodation, travel and living costs. There are however several avenues for students to explore that can help with the burden. The key is taking the time to find out what is out there and applying for them on time.
What does SUSI stand for?
SUSI stands for Student Universal Support Ireland and is Ireland’s national awarding authority for all further and higher education grants.
Can you get a grant for any course?
SUSI will provide funding in some way for most courses in the CAO system, for PLC courses as well as for many British and European courses. Generally, private college courses are not eligible for SUSI. Fees for all UK and Northern Ireland courses are not covered by SUSI but eligible applicants can still avail of the Maintenance element of the funding for approved courses.
What costs does the grant cover?
There are two parts to a SUSI grant.
- College fees (Typically €3000 per year for a CAO course)
- Maintenance grant (for accommodation & living expenses)
(*SUSI does not cover PLC course fees however these are generally very reasonable)
How would I know if I am eligible?
SUSI grants are means tested. On the SUSI website there is a very easy to use Eligibility Reckoner which will quickly tell you whether or not you are eligible.
The key elements are-
- Are you an Irish, EU, EAA, British or Swiss citizen who has been resident for 3 of the last 5 years?
- Do you intend studying an approved course (Level 5 or above) for the first time?
- Is your Household Income (Parent(s)/Guardian(s) + your own) lower than the relevant SUSI limit for your family (Check out the income thresholds on SUSI.ie)
For 2021-22 applicants the total household income must fall within specified limits which are calculated from all sources of income earned during the period 1st January 2020 to 31st December 2020. In this COVID affected year, if a family’s income has been adversely affected, and is likely to continue to be affected for the foreseeable future, you can apply to be assessed under change of circumstances which may take this into account.
How much could I be entitled to?
This all depends on where you are studying, the course you are studying, your Household Income level and the number of dependents in your house. There is a Non-Adjacent rate for those studying more than 45km from their home and an Adjacent rate for those studying closer to home, this reflects the need for more maintenance to help pay for accommodation etc.
If I do a PLC Level 5 course and claim a SUSI grant, will this mean that I will have to do without the grant for a year if I go on to college?
No. SUSI will continue to pay a grant to eligible applicants as long as you are progressing with your education, i.e. moving from a Level 5 course into a Level 6/7/8 course.
When and how can I apply?
SUSI has just opened for applications. To apply, simply log onto www.susi.ie and click apply. Some of the details that you will be asked to provide include your personal details, your CAO details and, of course, proof of income.
Anything else I should know?
Apply as soon as possible as early applications receive priority processing. DO NOT wait until you find out whether or not you have a place on a course before you apply, get your application in and if you change your mind on the course you had sent to SUSI that is perfectly fine.
Be sure to check the box in your CAO application so that CAO can send SUSI confirmation of your place on your chosen course. Finally, there are a range of very good information videos on the website.
SCHOLARSHIPS AND BURSARIES
There are also a wide range of scholarships and bursaries available for students to apply for in all colleges, universities and beyond, with many of these not means tested. Scholarships can be offered for a wide variety of reasons from excellence in sports to academic performance and also for socio-economic reasons. Several other bursaries are provided by industry or from sponsors. Your local Credit Union may also offer bursaries to local members.
By way of an example of the types of financial help out there, our own LYIT offer an impressive suite of scholarships and bursaries which include-
REACH scholarship (worth up to €800)
New Entrant Sports Scholarships (worth between €1000-€1500)
1916 BURSARY FUND (worth €5000 per annum)
Optum North West Healthcare Scholarship Scheme (worth €2500 per annum) (Open to Donegal Based Students Only)
College of Sanctuary Scholarship (Open to academically eligible asylum seekers and those in Direct Provision, worth a fee waiver and €2,000 per annum)
More details are available here on the LYIT website. PLEASE NOTE SOME FAST APPROACHING APPLICATION DEADLINES!
Whatever institution you decide to study at next year, be sure to check out their website for specific information in relation to grants, bursaries and scholarships. Pay attention to the application deadline dates and get the applications in! Many people simply can’t be bothered filling in forms but for those that take the time to do so, the benefits can be substantial. Best of luck!
Rory has been a Guidance Counsellor at Finn Valley College for the past 10 years and is a member of the Donegal Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
He also offers advice for students on careersportal.ie
Applying for college or changing careers is one of the most important and exciting decisions someone can make, and Rory will be here to offer advice and top tips on the many options that are available.