Students put at a “major disadvantage” in SUSI grant applications this year, Senator says

Students in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment this year were put at a disadvantage in their SUSI application assessment

Students were put at a disadvantage in their Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant application this year, for those who were in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), a Senator has said. 

Labour Spokesperson on Higher Education Senator Annie Hoey has said that students who were in receipt of the PUP this year were put at a disadvantage in their SUSI applications, as the grant application process did not account for government support payment. 

This comes months after the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) called for more PUP support, as some students faced financial hardship during the pandemic. With many students working remotely for this academic year, USI called for support including better WiFi connection and better access to devices for students.

Hoey said: “It has come to my attention that students who have been in receipt of the PUP payment are being put at a major disadvantage when it comes to their SUSI grant assessment. This is wholly unacceptable and I am asking Minister Harris to raise this at Cabinet as a matter of urgency.”

Hoey continued: “Some students have already been through hell and highwater getting to college this year and to find themselves in the position of securing a place only to lose out because they received PUP during the COVID crisis is totally unacceptable.”

“As it stands now here is a €4500 income disregard applied to any income earned during this period for SUSI grant application assessment purposes,” she added. 

Hoey continued to explain that students are being advised that income from PUP is not included in this income disregard, putting students who are in receipt of the PUP payment this year at a disadvantage when it came to their SUSI grant assessment.

SUSI grants are paid to about 77,000 students in colleges and universities across the country.

In the beginning of October, the Irish Times reported that “insufficient data” was being collected by SUSI, which determines the full income of thousands of students who are in receipt of third level grants.

Senator Hoey concluded: “While I believe that next year’s grant scheme has not been finalised and that it’s possible that PUP payments will be included in the income disregard, details of next year’s scheme will be available in early spring 2021.”

Hoey continued that this is “no comfort to current applicants” and she is calling on Minister Harris to address this as a “matter of urgency”. 

According to a recent report by the Department of Public Expenditure, students from Trinity, University College Dublin (UCD) and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) are the least likely to receive grant-aid, with only 5-25% being entitled to receive SUSI grants.

The report showed that over half of students at institutes of technology receive SUSI grants, compared to about one third of students studying in universities.

In July of this year, USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick called for extra financial supports to be made available for students this academic year, through SUSI, the Student Assistance Fund and “other funds that support access”.