The combined costs of college fees, accommodation, travel, food, books etc., are a major source of stress for students and parents.

 

That has been intensified this year with so few summer jobs available to students. Take some time at this stage to explore various financial supports available to you and apply for any of those that you may be eligible for.

SUSI grants, which cover fees and maintenance, are means tested and assessed based on your parent’s income. Your eligibility also depends on the course you are doing and your nationality or residency. You can check the criteria to see if you qualify by using the Eligibility Reckoner on www.susi.ie/eligibility-reckoner. The priority closing date for new applicants is July 9, and the advice is to apply by this deadline to ensure that your funding comes through early in the college year when costs are high. As you may not be sure about your exact course of study at this stage you can simply put down the course you hope to study and then update that information online if you decide to accept a different course. Remember that SUSI covers courses in Colleges of Further Education, Institutes of Education and Universities.

For the 2020/2021 academic year, your application will be assessed on gross income from all sources for the period January 1 to December 31, 2019. However, if you or a family member have experienced a change in circumstances from January 1, 2020, you can apply for your application to be assessed/reassessed under a change in circumstances by emailing support@susi.ie and including Change in Circumstances in the subject line.

HEAR (Higher Education Access Route): The deadline for applying for this scheme to support students come from socio-economic disadvantaged backgrounds was March 1 and students will be notified in mid-June of their eligibility. If unsuccessful it is possible to appeal. All details are available on www.accesscollege.ie and www.cao.ie.

Student Assistance Fund: This is available through the student service office of Higher Education Institutions and provides financial assistance for students who are experiencing financial difficulties while attending college to help with the cost of books, materials, bills, travel, childcare etc.

Support for Unemployed: If you have been in receipt of a social welfare payment for a period of time before starting college you may be able to receive a payment during your course of study. You can check this on www.welfare.ie or with your local Intreo/Welfare office.

Scholarships and Bursaries: They range in terms of criteria and are available in a number of colleges and from a number of outside agencies. In some cases scholarships are available in specific areas such as sport, arts and culture, entrepreneurship, community volunteerism etc. Details for these can be found on the college websites. If you come from a socio-economic disadvantaged background you may also be eligible to apply for bursaries such as the 1916 Bursary, St Vincent de Paul Education and Training Bursary and NUI Scholarships. Other scholarships are supported by industry and details can usually be found on the college websites. Most of these scholarships are not based on household income. While many of those deadlines have passed, locally the Liebherr Engineering Scholarship Programme is still accepting applications up to July 3 at 12pm. Details are available from gradrecruit.lcc@leibherr.com.

Funding for students with disabilities can be accessed from the Disability Support Service in your college. This funding is provided to the institutions to enable them to provide supports for students such as assistive technology, academic or learning support, transport etc. Even if you have not applied for the DARE scheme you can avail of these supports by registering with the disability service in the college once you become a student there.

Student Loans are also an option. Local credit unions have a long tradition of supporting young people and parents with loans for education and some credit unions offer bursaries to members who have been offered their place in college. Contact your local branch for details. Loans are also available from the various banks.

Niamh Dwyer, Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore & PRO of Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors.

Parents or students with queries on the Change of Mind or other career options can email Niamh on careerfocusnow@gmail.com or text/phone 087 9801105.