Parents are forking out more than €400 a month to put a child through college, a survey has revealed.
The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) said that its research found the yearly cost had come down slightly but that more than half of those asked said it was really hard to meet the expense.
It found mothers and fathers were saving for eight years on average to meet the bills, putting about €8,150 away.
Even with that the credit union research found almost two-thirds of parents were still getting into debt at about an average of €4,300 a child.
Sinead Butler from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU), said college costs were becoming increasingly challenging for many people.
"Heading off to college is an exciting time. It can also be very stressful for parents and students alike, as the cost of third level education can be a significant burden," she said.
"Credit unions offer loans at fair rates with flexibility to meet members' needs.
"This helps make cover the costs of third level education as affordable as possible for students.
"We would advise parents and students looking to finance third level education, be it through a loan or a savings plan, to contact their local credit union."
The ILCU said 4% of parents admitted to using money lenders to cover the costs of putting their youngsters through third level education while one-third turned to savings and credit union loans and 40% said they added costs to monthly outgoings.
The research also showed about a quarter of students worked to pay their way through college.
And costs were soaring, particularly for those not living in their home town or city.
The credit union organisation said students who were away from home spent almost twice as much running up bills of 1,048 euro a month on rent, transport, living and college-related expenses.
It said almost one quarter of students were skipping classes to earn money.
The survey found students worked an average 17 hours a week and were getting paid an average of 12 euro an hour while men clocked more hours than women.
It also showed parents' biggest worries about their children achieving a third class degree was that they would not get a job after graduating and 17% worried about the difficulty of passing exams and misuse of alcohol or drugs.
The survey by iReach was carried out in July using 1,000 responses from over-18s across Ireland.