Irish student forced to pay unexpected fees after 'grant miscommunication' from SUSI
An Irish postgraduate student has shared her frustrations with the SUSI system following what she claims was poor communication on her entitlement to a grant for her education.
Laura McCarthy, who is studying for a Master’s in Women’s Studies, was assured that she would be entitled to a full grant from Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) for the upcoming academic year in a letter sent out in July 2021.
However, she realised a month into her course that the fees remained unpaid on her student record.
She was then informed by SUSI that as a postgraduate student only around half of her fees would be accounted for through the grant, leaving her with a hefty sum of €3,000 debt to pay.
Laura received an apology from SUSI for the error they made in their letter, but says this did nothing to help her situation.
“When SUSI makes a mistake it has a colossal impact on the student, often resulting in crippling debt," Laura said.
"In those cases all SUSI will do is apologise for the inconvenience. They are never held accountable for their mistakes, the students are."
SUSI is an authority responsible for providing financial support to third level students in Ireland.
A student’s eligibility for SUSI depends on a number of factors, including parental income for students who live with or are dependent on parents.
As a general rule, a student is entitled to SUSI if their household’s annual income is less than €24,500.
However, Laura says that this criteria does not take into account students whose parents are not in a position to pay their children’s fees. She believes that the policy should not play a role in the eligibility process.
“The idea that all parents are available to pay for their child’s third level education is wrong and out of touch," she said.
"The whole 'means test' is very generalised and does not take into account individual situations."
A report issued by the Department of Public Expenditure in 2020 revealed that almost 77,000 students were accessing the SUSI grant.
The report also stated that almost half of all 18 and 19 years were receiving grant aid for their studies.
Laura was eligible for the full payment of her fees during her undergraduate degree and says she encountered little difficulty with SUSI then.
She states that the information given to postgraduate students, however, is much more confusing and leaves individuals unsure of their entitlements.
“A girl I went to school with had immense difficulties trying to find information about postgrads on the SUSI website. Like myself, she had no issues applying as an undergrad," she said.
"There seems to be a pattern of misinformation and mistakes where postgraduate students are concerned."
Laura hopes that awareness will prevent these mistakes from being made again as they cause students undue stress. She hopes they will begin to uphold promises laid out to students in written communication.
SUSI did not immediately respond to the Irish Mirror’s request for comment.