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Opinion: I had to leave home and become independent at 18 – but SUSI won't recognise that

The grant is supposed to be there for people like me – people who can’t survive in college without it. But I don’t fit into SUSI’s picture of what a student is.

Image: vlad.georgescu via Shutterstock

MY NAME IS Gary* and I’m a 20-year-old, third year student in UCD. Like most people who have had to deal with SUSI I’ve been become incredibly frustrated.

Here’s why…

Shortly after my 18th birthday, and in the lead up to my Leaving Cert, I had to leave home. I’ve been living completely independently since then. According to SUSI, you cannot be independent if you are under 23 – it’s just not something they accept.

I applied for a student grant when I got offered a place in UCD and after just over one year, after months of fighting decisions and having SUSI lose my documents, my application was refused.

In my second year in college, I called SUSI, and explained my situation. “Leave a note on your application saying that you’re independent and we’ll sort you out!” they said.

Nice one, I’m going to be OK, I thought. It wasn’t to be. No support again, abandoned by both family and state. The stress was unimaginable.

The time then came to apply for my grant for third year, and I was getting desperate. I either had to get a grant or get out of college.

I’m told again to put a note on my application again explaining my independence. I do this and get a call from SUSI.

‘Get a solicitor to get yourself and your parents together to legally declare your independence’ I was told.

I did this.

Then, like it was some sort of twisted joke, I’m told that “You shouldn’t have been asked to do that, it’s not going to make a difference to your application, you’ll still be treated as a dependent student living with your parents, sorry.” And “There are hundreds of students like yourself, who desperately need the grant but just slip through the cracks, and there’s nothing we can do about that, it’s just the way it is.”

I made my application in July. It is now November and I don’t know if I will be getting a grant, and honestly, my hopes aren’t high.

I don’t know if I’m going to be in college next week. I’m working more and more trying to keep up with the bills coming in my front door, I’m not going to college, I’m too tired, too stressed and too overwhelmed by everything.

I’ve come so close to giving up, more times than I’d like to admit.

The grant is supposed to be there for people like me. People who can’t survive in college without it.

But I’m under 23 and independent.

I don’t fit into SUSI’s picture of what a student is.

I’m discarded.

I’m forgotten.

And I’m left to trudge through this on my own.

*Gary is not his real name. It has been changed to protect the student’s identity.

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