My issues with the SUSI grant applications

Have you filled in a SUSI grant application? Did you have issues with the categories that are used?
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Young man writing college or university application form with laptop. Student applying to school. Scholarship document, admission paper or letter on table. Typing email.

Recently I noticed that the SUSI grant application process now has two streams for the mature student applicant where previously it only had one stream for mature students (those over 23 in January of the year they were applying for the course) and one stream for non-mature student (those under 23 year in January of the year they were applying for the course) otherwise understood as ‘dependent’. Presumably, dependent in this context means dependent on your parents or guardians.

There is a serious flaw in this logic from the get-go because Focus Ireland pointed out in 2017 that 10% of the 7,421 homeless people in Ireland were 18-24 years old. These young people are most likely not dependent on their parents to go to college. It is wrong then that the SUSI grant system is so clear cut that those aged under 23 are classed as dependent – this is obviously not always true.

It matters because when someone is classed as dependent, their parents or guardian’s income is considered when the grant application is made. If the combined income of the applicant and their parents/guardian surpasses the threshold than the student is not classed as needing a grant. However, presumably if a person under the age of 23 is homeless, on the margins of being homeless or otherwise disadvantaged and without support from their family, it is safe to imagine that their parent/guardian’s money is probably not going to send them to college – even if they have it. Not every student waves goodbye to their parents from their middle class driveway and goes off to live in a luxurious student complex in the city all expenses paid. I think we need to wrap our heads around that reality.

The second stream for mature students is called mature ‘dependent’. This particular understanding of how families operate in the 21st century is so out of touch it is laughable. It is now also assumed that those over the age of 23 are also dependent on their parents. I know people personally who had to contend with this issue when they were in their forties and others who struggled with it even though their parents were deceased.

What is most infuriating about this process is that the responsibility lands on the student to prove that they are not living with and dependent upon their parent/guardian. Surely when a person is over 23 and applying for a grant independently they should not be treated like a child. This logic has turned understandings of adulthood on its head and SUSI appear to be making up their own rules within this topsy-turvy universe that they’ve invented.

There is only one way to define adulthood according to the law and that is when someone becomes 18 years of age. If one of these people committed a crime in the morning they would be held with full responsibility for their actions and their parents would not be on trial because the assumption that parents/guardians are responsible for one’s actions is crazy.

Equally, the idea that someone’s parents/guardians must be responsible for them indefinitely – financially and otherwise – after they have become adults is odd. A similar logic is applied to the reduced rate of welfare for people under the age of 26. Is it any wonder then that 18-24 years old young people make up 10% of homeless people in Ireland? Do we really get to be surprised about figures like this when we insist on stripping young people of their independence? What we have done is lengthened childhood. In my opinion, indefinitely.

The psychological and social implications of treating adults like children in this manner will show themselves in time and we will be ashamed of the way we have treated people who are only trying to get an education. It is not such an evil goal that we must be suspicious of. Why do SUSI insist on making it so difficult for people to get funding to go to college? Why so many hoops to jump? Why do we need so badly to prove we are deserving when we know that the people who apply for SUSI grants are already disadvantaged. That is, afterall, what the grants are for.

We must allow ourselves to see reason before ideology. At the end of the day, why try to stop anyone from going to college, what harm can it really do? If you would like to help create positive change and remove the dependent mature student status in the SUSI Grant application please visit my campaign page and sign the petition. 

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