The families of more than 50,000 children who began school in the past month may be alarmed at the costs so far but they are just a fraction of future education expenses.
A Hibernian Life & Pensions study puts the average annual cost of putting a child through primary school at €579, accounting for uniforms, sports gear, books and contributions to the school. Applied to eight years of primary education, this would give a cost of more than €4,600 per pupil.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern just last week about Irish parents bearing the costs of primary education.
Hibernian’s research found the average cost of sending a child to second level was €970 a year, or €5,820 for the six years spent by most students in second level.
For third-level students, the current estimated annual cost is €4,626, amounting to more than €18,500 for a four-year college course. At current prices, these costs would amount to €28,956 per child from their first days in junior infants to graduation from college.
But they do not allow for inflation, which Hibernian estimates will bring the cost of a four-year college degree to €31,000 in 2019 — when this year’s junior infants will be eligible for third level. This does not take account, either, of a possible return to college tuition fees, although there are no current political signs of such a change.
Gareth McQuillan, Hibernian Life & Pensions director of product development and marketing, said getting into the savings habit when a child starts school should alleviate some of the cost of education, at least at third level.
“Our research shows the cost of sending a child to school or college can be a significant strain on a family’s budget, especially for families with two or more children. The good news, is that by investing €124 a month, they should be in a better position to fund a college education when the time comes,” he said.
While the costs of attending college are rising, the primary and second level costs have fallen around 13% since similar research in 2003. The costs should also be considered an investment in every child’s future, as research proves average earnings of people with college qualifications are higher than those who have none.