Young Fine Gael has called on the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation & Science, Simon Harris to launch a review of the SUSI Grant Process as soon as possible. The organisation believes that the review should mainly focus on the current eligibility criteria – as well as the current maintenance payments. YFG also acknowledges the work of the Union of Students in Ireland to highlight this issue.
Minister Harris recently took much-welcomed steps to make the scheme more accommodating for students in Direct Provision. The organisation believes that focus now needs to turn to making the scheme more accessible to all students.
Young Fine Gael President, Daire Lawler said:
“A fundamental overhaul of the SUSI Grant Process is necessary to ensure greater access to college for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Currently, many students are finding it increasingly difficult to find the means to attend college, particularly with the high cost of renting student accommodation.
“YFG believes that the eligibility criteria to avail of a SUSI grant is far too strict. We believe that the current system creates barriers to accessing education rather than removing them.”
Therefore, serious consideration needs to be given to the eligibility criteria, including:
- The length of time a prospective applicant has been resident in the State;
- Definitions of ‘dependent’ and ‘independent’ applicants;
- Proof of residence as an independent applicant;
- Recognition of third-level institutions;
- Part-time students and courses; and
- Income and holiday-earning thresholds; among many other things.
The SUSI website also states that the SUSI Maintenance Grant “is a contribution towards day-to-day living costs and is paid directly to eligible students through nine monthly payments over the course of the academic year.”
YFG believes that it is wrong to exclude this particular payment to students who avail of the Back to Education Allowance payment – and this should also be examined during the Minister’s review to ensure that it is more fair and equitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Furthermore, the adjacency rates, upon which the SUSI Maintenance Grant is paid, need to be revised in light of the recent decision of Bus Éireann to shut down 4 of its 18 national routes in the coming months. The education of students should never be impacted due to living in a rural residence.
The Programme for Government commits to reviewing the SUSI grant process in 2020. As we enter the final few weeks of 2020, YFG is concerned that this commitment will be unnecessarily delayed until next year. Ideally, any sort of review should be finished well in advance of next year’s application period.