21. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills the way in which the distances for adjacent and non-adjacent third level grants were arrived at; his plans to reform the calculation of distances to one of a mean average for the journey; his further plans to address the issue of the calculation via the shortest distance using rural roads in poor repair; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 14426/18 asked on 29 Mar 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: The way in which SUSI calculates the distance from a student’s home to the college he or she attends does not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground. It does not take into account unsuitable roads, one-way streets and, for example, an off-ramp on the N40. We need to see if there is a way of taking such issues into consideration and whether the Minister of State can take them into account by reviewing the way in which SUSI calculates those distances.
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223. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 176 of 20 February 2018, if all overpayments have been written off. (Question 12166/18 asked on 20 Mar 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): SUSI operates a comprehensive set of processes and controls to manage the assessment process and to minimise the risk of incorrectly awarding grants. However, the nature of the assessment process undertaken by SUSI means that there is a risk that some students may be awarded maintenance grants and/or fee grants for which they are not eligible.
Where overpayments do occur, SUSI treats the overpayment as a debt to the Exchequer and seeks ...

173. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an overpayment refund will not be requested by SUSI in the case of a person (details supplied). (Question 8138/18 asked on 20 Feb 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): In accordance with the general policy and principle regarding the recovery of debt as set out in the Student Support Act 2011, all student grant overpayments are liable to be repaid to the Exchequer. SUSI implements a flexible repayment policy with minimum instalment amounts and timeframes that are designed to be as student-friendly as possible. SUSI actively manages all overpayments as debts due to the State on this basis and continue...

176. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an anomaly whereby SUSI is allowed a specific write off pertaining to overpayments made to certain persons will be examined (details supplied); the reason for the discrepancy; and the selection process in determining which persons must repay and which do not. (Question 8150/18 asked on 20 Feb 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): SUSI operates a comprehensive set of processes and controls to manage the assessment process and to minimise the risk of incorrectly awarding grants. However, the nature of the assessment process undertaken by SUSI means that there is a risk that some students may be awarded maintenance grants and/or fee grants for which they are not eligible.
Where overpayments do occur, SUSI treats the overpayment as a debt to the Exchequer and seeks ...

454. Deputy Kathleen Funchion asked the Minister for Education and Skills the rationale behind SUSI’s new third party representation process; and the rationale for not now accepting email consent contrary to its email dated 5 December 2017 outlining the new process. (Question 1906/18 asked on 16 Jan 2018 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): In order to respond to information requests made by third parties, including public representatives, on behalf student grant applicants in a manner that is fully compliant with the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 and as reflected the SUSI Data Protection Statement, SUSI must be satisfied that grant applicants and other parties to their grant applications have consented that their personal information may be released to third parties. ...

206. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will consider returning to the pre 2010 non adjacent distance rate with regard to SUSI grants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 50511/17 asked on 28 Nov 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student.  It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college.  The student grant scheme does however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means.  Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates.  The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to those students who may be living awa...

205. Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he has been briefed by Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, on proposals for its future use of the public services card in its work; and if his attention has been drawn to the scope of the proposals. (Question 48951/17 asked on 21 Nov 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): In line with the 2013 Government decision, S180/20/10/1789, the Public Services Card (PSC) infrastructure is the Government’s standard identity verification scheme, which is to be used for access to all public services, where appropriate. As such, the widespread adoption of the PSC infrastructure, including its online counterpart MyGovID, to underpin access to public services by citizens is critical to the successful delivery of the eGo...

422. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Education and Skills if an adult can be kept as a dependant ad infinitum under SUSI (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 38412/17 asked on 11 Sep 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor): For student grant purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances either as students dependent on parents or a legal guardian, or as independent mature students.
For a dependent student, the reckonable income for grant purposes includes both his/her own income and that of his/her parents/legal guardians.
A student may be assessed as an independent mature student if he or she has attai...

292. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration has been given to graduating payments of adjacent and non-adjacent grants in 5 km or 10 km increments, such that a student living 46 km from their college and in receipt of a special rate of maintenance grant does not face receiving a grant that is €3,540 less than a student living 2 km closer to the college. (Question 35432/17 asked on 26 Jul 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor): The student maintenance grant is a contribution towards the living costs of a student. It is not intended to cover the full costs of attending college. The student grant scheme does, however, provide for different levels of maintenance support, depending on means. Grants are also provided at adjacent and non-adjacent rates. The higher non-adjacent rates are intended to provide additional support to t...

206. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason students enrolled in third level courses that are dependent on their parents for financial support may only have income earned during holiday periods disallowed for assessment of total family income under SUSI grant applications; the reason income earned by students during term time is disallowed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 32164/17 asked on 11 Jul 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Mitchell O’Connor): The assessment of means under my Department’s student grant scheme is based on gross income from all sources, with certain social welfare and health service executive payments being exempt.
In the assessment of means, a deduction can be made for holiday earnings made by the applicant from employment outside of term time but within the reference period. I increased the value of this income disregard from ...

234. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 553 of 20 June 2017, his views on whether it would be fairer for SUSI to either pursue all overpayments or none at all rather than pick and choose which students should be liable for an overpayment (details supplied). (Question 31398/17 asked on 04 Jul 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): As previously advised, where overpayments occur, SUSI treats the overpayment as a debt to the Exchequer and seeks to ensure that all such payments are recovered from the student. This approach is consistent with the general policy and principle regarding the recovery of debt, as set out in the Student Support Act 2011, and is applied to all overpayments.
When an overpayment is identified, SUSI will write to the student to inform him/her...

644. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the reason the monetary value of an asset which was gained via inheritance during the reference year is seen as reckonable income in the assessment of a student grant application; the reason for this approach to inherited assets in view of the fact that additional assets not gained by inheritance are not seen as reckonable income; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 28962/17 asked on 20 Jun 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Article 24(6) of the Student Grant Scheme 2017 provides that gifts or inheritances received in the reference period will be included as reckonable income. 
If any of the persons whose income is under consideration received a gift or an inheritance in the reference period, these are included in reckonable income, unless in the case of an independent student, the gift or inheritance was between the applicant and his or her spouse, civil pa...

662. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the cuts to the student grant implemented in 2011 and 2012 and restore the distance of adjacent rate to 24 kilometres from the current distance of 45 kilometres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 29110/17 asked on 20 Jun 2017 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Deputy will be aware that Budget 2011 provided for a number of student grant measures which came into effect for the 2011/12 academic year, including the change in the assessment of the qualifying distance criterion for the non-adjacent rate of grant from 24 kilometres to 45 kilometres. 
The 24km distance criterion was originally set in 1968 and had not been updated in more than 40 years. Since then, significant improvements have tak...

116. Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin asked the Minister for Education and Skills the position with the case of a person (details supplied) currently in third level education; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 28864/16 asked on 05 Oct 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives ...

474. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will review the SUSI application process whereby an applicant who is 26 years of age also needs to provide details of his or her parents’ finances, despite living independently from them; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 25885/16 asked on 16 Sep 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): For student grant purposes, students are categorised according to their circumstances, either as students dependent on parents/legal guardian or as independent mature students. A student may be assessed as an independent student if he/she has attained the age of 23 on the 1st of January of the year of first entry to an approved course or on re-entry to an approved course following a break in studies of at least three years, and is not o...

513. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will establish clear guidelines with SUSI on the issue of estrangement for the purposes of the student grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 26219/16 asked on 16 Sep 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Cases of genuine estrangement are relatively rare and will almost always involve exceptional circumstances unique to a particular family situation. The scheme does not stipulate precisely how an awarding authority satisfies itself that such circumstances prevail. This is to allow the awarding authority sufficient flexibility to assess the evidence of irrevocable estrangement in each individual case. 
It is difficult to legislate for al...

529. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will advise on the dental nursing programme and SUSI grant classification; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that qualification for SUSI grants for dental nursing vary depending on the university involved; the way in which he can ratify this; the steps being taken to streamline it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 26292/16 asked on 16 Sep 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Approved undergraduate courses for the Student Grant Scheme 2016 are prescribed in the Student Support Regulations 2016 and in the Student Support Act 2011.
The Regulations prescribe that an approved undergraduate course is a full-time course leading to a major higher education and training award which takes a minimum of two years to complete in an approved institution.Courses that are part-time or that are less than two years in duratio...

250. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills if extra staff are being brought into the Student Universal Support Ireland offices in 2016 to deal with the application process; if he envisages a backlog; how long applicants will be waiting on applications to be processed; when it is likely grants will be paid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20651/16 asked on 12 Jul 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Student Grant Scheme for 2016 opened on the 7th of April, more than two weeks earlier than last year. SUSI is expecting to receive more than 110,000 applications for the 2016/17 academic year. To date it has received 87,000 applications and provisionally awarded grants to 41,000 students. All applications received by SUSI by the priority closing date of Friday 8th July will be prioritised by the SUSI assessment teams.
The earlier ...

251. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to increase or review the Student Universal Support Ireland Student grant due to spiralling rent prices in areas such as Dublin; the measures in place to deal with this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20655/16 asked on 12 Jul 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The eligibility criteria for student grants is reviewed annually in my Department and approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The statutory Student Grant Scheme and Student Support Regulations for the 2016/17 academic year were published by my Department on 7 April, 2016.
The Student Grant Scheme for 2016/17 contains a number of positive changes to the previous scheme. These include:
- an extension to the qualifying...

256. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Education and Skills his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20745/16 asked on 12 Jul 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): SUSI have introduced a number of measures in 2016 that are intended to make the Student Grant Scheme more efficient for students for the 2016/17 academic year.
One of these measures is the introduction of Eircode as part of the online application form. The use of eircode will improve processing times for students.
However, the actual calculation of distance from a student’s home to college will not be changing from previous years, and S...

58. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to reintroduce student grants for postgraduate students aged 23 years or over, as per discussions which took place between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil during Government formation negotiations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 15162/16 asked on 09 Jun 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): The Deputy will be aware of the difficult expenditure reduction measures taken in recent budgets as a consequence of the challenging economic circumstances. A decision in Budget 2012, removed maintenance payments for new students entering post graduate courses from the 2012/13 academic year onwards. However, eligible students can still qualify for limited fee support.
Those who meet the qualifying conditions for the special rate of grant...

72. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Education and Skills if there are any plans for Student Universal Support Ireland grants to be paid to all Quality and Qualifications Ireland degree students at all approved institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 8532/16 asked on 27 Apr 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Under my Department’s student grant scheme, eligible candidates may receive funding provided they are attending an approved course at an approved institution as defined in the scheme.
The definition of an approved institution is set out in Section 7 of the Student Support Act 2011 and Regulation 3 of the Student Support Regulations 2016.
There are no plans to amend the definition of an approved institution. However, tax relief on tuitio...

706. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the anticipated timing and payment methods used for the payment of maintenance grants to students for the 2016-17 college year under the student universal support Ireland system; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6015/16 asked on 06 Apr 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Students once awarded a maintenance grant for the 2016/17 academic year will be paid on a monthly basis. Payments will be made by Electronic Fund Transfer.
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462. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Education and Skills to urgently examine and expedite Student Universal Support Ireland grant review for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 4044/16 asked on 02 Feb 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): As part of a comprehensive customer service and communications strategy provided by Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI), to ensure that all necessary avenues are open to applicants to receive the information they need, a dedicated email and phone line service is provided by SUSI for Oireachtas members. This was established to meet an identified need for applicants who choose to engage the assistance of their public representatives i...

158. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills the additional financial cost of including a new 100% non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant, 45 km or over, payment rate of €4,500 for students whose assessed family income is less than €30,000 per annum under the third level student grant scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Question 2515/16 asked on 20 Jan 2016 - Student Grant Scheme Administration)

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O’Sullivan): Based on the 2014/15 academic year – SUSI paid the non-adjacent rate of maintenance grant to 8,392 students where the reckonable income was below €30,000, and where the students did not qualify for the Special rate of maintenance grant. These students would have received a grant of €3,025. The additional cost of increasing this figure to €4,500 would be circa €12.5 million.
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