By Aislinn O Connor
SUSI – it’s either the best thing ever, or the absolute worst. It can help people survive the entire college year or it can deny people in need. One thing is for sure though – it’s just not enough anymore. With the cost of living rising yearly, how does SUSI expect students to live off the same grant that has not increased in years?
Currently, 100% of the SUSI standard full maintenance nonadjacent rate grant is €336.11 per month. That is €3025 for the academic year. For some students living away from home, that covers absolutely nothing. Now, I understand that there is in fact a special rate grant that’s €657.22 per month, but that is also not a lot of money when you break things down.
My rent in Galway for the academic year 2018/19 was €520 per month for a tiny box room. How could I possibly afford to live if I was depending on only €336.11 a month? As a Corkonian and, therefore, not able to spend too long away from Cork, I spend around €35 every second week, if not every week, to get home. That raises my own monthly spending to €590, when you add bills to that it costs nearly €645, and that is before I start spending on necessities, like, you know, food. Therefore, 100% of what I would have gotten from SUSI (if I got 100% of the grant) wouldn’t even cover half of what I would need. The question begs, how is anyone who is in dire need of financial support able to afford to live away from home on 100% of the SUSI grant?
As one of 8 siblings, having to depend on my parents for financial support really put my parents under financial pressure. But, then again, I am one of the lucky ones who can depend on my parents. Many people cannot. One student I know who really can’t depend on her parents, and who receives the special rate SUSI grant, said that the grant was “stretched very thin” and it “was difficult to make ends meet.” She also comments that without SUSI, she “wouldn’t be able to afford to go to college.” Why are we putting students under so much pressure? Shouldn’t the grant be raised?
But would increasing the rate of the SUSI grant mean that other students wouldn’t get SUSI? This could be both a good and a bad thing. Some students would not be able to go to college without SUSI, so are they the ones that should get a higher amount? Should we take it from people who are getting SUSI, but who could still realistically continue going to college without it? Or what about if the government put more money into SUSI, would that mean they would take more money away from other valuable educational schemes, like the Back to Education Allowance of the HEAR scheme? These things can be such a catch-22, but one thing that is for definite, though, is that the SUSI grant definitely needs to change – and soon.
I am not saying that students need everything handed to them. Most students do work part-time while in college and working part-time has helped me and many more students afford to help pay for ourselves in college. But students shouldn’t have to put their own education at risk by working so many hours just to be able to survive. It’s just wrong. Students who cannot work full time should get some sort of support from the state, just like everyone else who can’t work full time. Times are changing and getting more expensive and students need help to combat this and that’s for sure.