Studying close to home is often the best option
A chronic shortage of affordable accommodation - and the absolute necessity to live as cheaply as possible - are the key reasons why many school leavers decide to enrol in third level colleges close to home.
Annie Hoey, President of the Union of Students in Ireland, said when it comes to weighing up which third level institution to choose, economic factors remain high up the priority list.
"Anyone in the past three years who has a child coming of age and going on to third level education will be acutely aware of the issues surrounding student accommodation.
"They will also realise the problems facing young people trying to find somewhere suitable to live.
"Another issue is that no one really knows how higher education will be funded in the next few years.
"There's the possibility of increased fees, which could put a lot of financial pressure on families."
She added that many students are also keen to hold down a part-time job close to the family home to help pay their way through college.
"People weigh up a variety of factors, particularly economic issues, such as the high cost of living away from home."
Hoey also stressed that the ongoing uncertainty surrounding fees is a concern for many families.
Overall a range of financial pressures means many students now have no option but to live rent-free with their parents during their college years.
For example, figures from this year's school league tables show some 69pc of students who enrolled in Letterkenny Institute of Technology are natives of Co Donegal.
President of the institute, Paul Hannigan, said location and economic factors both play a role when pupils decide where to study.
He said: "We have nearly 70pc of our overall cohort from the county; enrolment in any of the colleges across Ireland is predominantly locally based. Obviously the recession had a major impact - although a good percentage of Donegal students also go off to study elsewhere."
He credits the popularity of the institute to the extensive range of programmes it offers students.
"We've been working very closely with industry to identify possible job opportunities in the area for graduates who want to stay in this region," he added.
"We have also engaged very proactively in terms of what schools and guidance counsellors have been telling us."
He said the reputation of the institute has been greatly boosted by positive feedback from former students: "It has helped to really grow our numbers over the years. We're a very ambitious and confident institution - and we're particularly happy with the support we get from schools right around the country."
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