Food and travel expenses push up third-level costs

Food, travel, and education expenses are pushing up the cost of going to college, an Irish League of Credit Unions survey has found.

It also shows that students are spending far less than they did in 2011 on their social lives and clothing, while rents have gone up slightly.

Although it is not explicitly clear, financial concerns may be a factor behind the significant fall in numbers of students living away from home during the college year.

Almost half of students in 2011 did so, but that figure has fallen below one-third this year.

The research is based on the responses of 250 students and 250 parents to market research company iReach for the ILCU last month.

The average student rent has only increased slightly — from €330 to e343 a month — but household bills rose 30% to e91 a month in the same two-year period.

The financial pressures mean two-thirds of college students have to work to fund their education, with the vast majority working during the academic year.

Students who work do an average of 18 to 19 hours a week, for average hourly rates of e10.

More than one-in-four male students who work — or 17.5% of all male students — said they are skipping lectures.

The number is far lower among female students, just one-in-six of those who work or 11% of all female students.

The €2,500 student contribution now payable by students who do not qualify for a grant has also adversely impacted family budgets.

It has risen from €900 in 2009 and will reach e3,000 in another two years, but the survey found 8% of students will either be unable to go to college or will have to drop out as a result of the latest rise.

The fee is paid or part-paid for qualifying students from families with an income of €54,240 or less (or higher if there are more than three dependent children).

Of the 250 parents surveyed, five-out-of-six say they will have difficulty covering their children’s costs, and one-in-six say it is such a struggle that they are hoping their children will not have to drop out as a result.

For 6%, the costs mean they can not afford to send a child to college this year.

The reduced support and delays with grants have seen finances become almost an equal worry for parents about their children at college as their ability to get work after graduation.

For one-in-three parents — up from 25% in 2011 — money issues are now the biggest worry and far outweigh their concerns over difficulty with exams, alcohol or drug misuse, or social problems at college.

Students themselves are most worried about passing their exams, which emerged as the biggest worry for one-quarter of them.

The fear of not getting a job is the biggest concern of 18% of students, slightly more than those for whom finance and debt are the main worry.

Springboard success

Four out of 10 jobseekers who availed of free part- time third-level courses got work within six weeks of graduating, says a survey of participants.

Another 24% have gone on to further studies and just over one-third are still looking for work, after completing a Springboard course funded by the Department of Education and managed by the Higher Education Authority.

Details of more than 200 courses with another 6,000 free places are being provided at Dublin’s Mansion House today and at a similar roadshow event at Cork City Hall next Tuesday.

For further information on the re-skilling courses that go up to masters degree level, visit springboardcourses.ie.

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