Chances of attending third-level can be measured in kilometres a new study has found.
And it warns that a change to student grants in recent years is likely to make it even more difficult to overcome the distance difference.
Every 10 kms of travel distance from home reduces their likelihood of going to college by 2.7pc.
So, for a school leaver living 50 kms from college the probability of higher education participation is lowered by 13.5pc – a more than one in seven chance - than if they lived close by.
Travel distance was not generally a major factor in college attendance but, longer distances were associated with lower participation rates for those from lower social classes.
There may be a number of reasons while children from lower socio-economic backgrounds do not attend college, but this is the first time that the distance effect has been nailed.
Greater travel distance obviously leads to a range of additional costs, whether it is daily travel or having to leave home and paying for accommodation, food and other expenses.
The findings of the study carried out by researchers at NUI Galway, the University of Limerick and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is published today.
The study noted the good geographic spread of colleges across Ireland and that most areas have good accessibility.
But it found that there are large areas from which an individual would have to travel 50 kms of more, as well as areas from which the nearest third-level college was over 75 kms away.
While these areas tend to be more rural with relatively low population densities, the evidence suggest some geographic inequalities in relation to access to college, the authors’ states.
The report was done when students had to live 24km from college in order to be eligible for the full student grant, but that threshold has now increased to 45kms.
“The effect of distance on participation for those form lower social classes is likely to have been exacerbated by this change” the report states.