Half of parents have cut spending on their family's clothing and goods, to cope with third level costs.
A survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions has found nine in ten parents are helping fund their children's college costs and six in ten are worried about getting into debt.
The ILCU's Paul Bailey says more than three quarters are struggling, and there has been an increase in the number of parents approaching money-lenders for help.
"This is a constant worry for parents," said Mr Bailey.
"In fact, they put the worry of financing the third-level education over their child not doing well in college, or over their child misusing alcohol or drugs in college.
"So that tells you how significant the concern is."