With third-level education set to cost parents up to €35,320 over the course of a student’s studies, four in 10 parents fell into debt this year funding their child’s college expenses.
New research shows that while the number of parents going into third-level related debt went down in 2019, 70% still consider the cost of their child’s tertiary studies to be a financial burden.
This year, 41% of parents say they got into debt covering college-related expenses, compared to 52% the previous year.
In 2019, the cost of college accommodation surpassed the average cost of private rented accommodation for the first time, with parents of students living on campus now paying €8,830 annually to cover their child’s fees, lodgings, transport, and financial support.
The findings are included in a study by Zurich, which said college accommodation is by far the highest cost for students living away from home.
On average, parents are paying €4,219 per year for college-run student accommodation, an increase of €777 this academic year.
This compares to those with children living in private rented accommodation, who are now paying €3,750 each year.
For parents with students living at home, college-related expenses run to €4,611, and up to €18,444 over the course of a four-year degree.
According to Zurich, 51% of college students lived at home during the most recent academic year, while 19% lived in student accommodation.
A further 28% lived in other types of rented accommodation.
College fees were also among the highest spend items for the most recent academic year, costing €2,316 per year on average.
Transport costs also increased slightly, from €303 per year in 2018 to €315 per year in 2019. However, there was also a significant number of students (19%) who spend upwards of €900 on transport annually.
When it comes to transport, 30% of college students use cars, an increase of 8% on last year, while 56% use public transport and 13% cycle, both up 3% on the previous year.
Almost half of the parents surveyed by Zurich said they use their savings to pay for their children’s college expenses.
Of the parents who got into debt, the average amount reduced to €1,388 from €1,577, with 66% in debt of more than €1,000.
This compares to 79% of parents in debt of more than €1,000 in 2018.
The number of those with a debt of more than €2,000 also went down this year, from 57% to 46%.
Almost 40% of parents believe the best time to start saving for their child’s education is when the child is less than one year old, the study also found.
Three quarters of parents (75%) said they have a savings account for their child’s college expenses.
“The findings of this year’s research show that the cost of third-level education remains a challenge for parents particularly for those who have the added cost of accommodation,” said Jonathan Daly of Zurich.
“While total college costs will differ from student-to-student, the best way to prepare for all eventualities is to start saving early.
“This year’s research highlights some financial relief among parents of college students possibly the result of parents being gradually better equipped to finance their children’s college costs.”
The Cost of Education in Ireland study was conducted by iReach Market Research on behalf of Zurich Life Assurance plc.
The survey, which included a sample of 600 parents from across the country, took place in May.