Dearest days of your life
College days may be the best of young person's life but for parents they are among the most expensive they are ever likely to experience.Even if your son or daughter qualifies for a grant, it is unlikely that it will cover all the expenses. And there are many of these -- rent, books, travel, food and even a bit of a social life will soon put a major hole in most household budgets.
Research conducted by Bank of Ireland and online parent resource Schooldays.ie estimates that the cost of funding a year in college amounts to a staggering €10,000.
Accommodation costs have fallen due to the house price collapse, but it sill remains one of the biggest costs for many students. The Schooldays.ie/Bank of Ireland research found that rent alone comes to €2,709 a year for those renting outside Dublin. Accommodation costs are higher in Dublin, Cork and Limerick than in other towns or cities with third-level colleges.
Another big expense is the registration fee demanded by colleges and universities. This cost around €1,982, according to the figures in the study which includes data from the Dublin Institute of Technology Campus Life survey for this year.
Lunch and food for a year in college has been calculated at costing €1,620. Spending money comes in at €1,480, with transport costing €837.
Books are often blamed by students as causing significant, and sometimes unexpected, financial strain, according to a separate report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report which was commissioned by the Higher Education Authority.
Students studying maths, science, engineering and agriculture/veterinary courses spend the least amount on books and materials at around €22-€23 a month. Those in law, education and the humanities/arts spend the greatest amount on books and materials, averaging between €36 and €41. However, president of the Union of Students in Ireland Gary Redmond reckons the ESRI figures are out of date.
In addition, he says that students are suffering from a lack of part-time work and banks not giving out loans. Delays in county councils paying out grants are also forcing more students to seek help from college hardship funds, Mr Redmond says.
Some pointers on keeping costs down
If you are an undergraduate student at a publicly funded third-level educational institution you generally do not have to pay fees. However, free fees do not apply to courses in private colleges.
There may not be fees in most colleges at the moment but there is an annual student services charge that all students (except those who qualify for maintenance grants) have to pay. It is also known as a registration fee and it covers student services and examinations.
The amount of the charge varies from one institution to another. It was announced in Budget 2009 that there would be an increase in the student services charge from €900 to €1,500 for the year 2009/2010.
The maintenance grant, paid by local authorities, is the main source of financial help available from the State for students who do full-time undergraduate/postgraduate courses in universities. Family and personal income is a key factor that will be assessed when you apply for a maintenance grant but there are also some other conditions. At present one in three students are in receipt of a full or partial grant. Under the grant system, families with three or fewer children and with income of below €41,100 get a full grant for a child in college. A full grant is worth €3,420 for a student living away from home and €1,370 for a student living at home.
If you think you are eligible for the maintenance grant, you should apply for it as soon as possible. Telephone 057 9325317 or log on to www.education.ie.
This is paid by the vocational education committees and essentially applies to courses in institutes of technologies. You must meet the criteria to qualify for the grant including academic attainment and a means test.
Further information and advice about the scheme are available from your local authority and from studentfinance.ie. You should send the completed application form for the scheme to your local authority.
Finding accommodation for a student can be quite stressful. But the good news is that rents have fallen by 25pc during the housing crash.
Good places to look for accommodation include college noticeboards, shop and community noticeboards and newspaper classified ads.