More students using credit unions to cover costs
HARD-pressed students and their families are turning to credit unions in increasing numbers for student loans.
Credit unions around the country report a jump in loan requests this year due to the general economic downturn. The 5pc cut in the student grant announced in last December's Budget and fewer summer or part-time jobs also mean that it is more and more difficult for students to finance their third- level education this year.
"In the past, parents would have ringfenced funds to help finance children's third-level education. Given the current economic conditions, many families have had to use these funds to finance their day-to-day expenditure," said Fintan Ryan, manager of Tralee Credit Union.
Research produced by DIT Office Campus Life shows that over a nine-month college year, the expenses for a student living away from home is €7,470 and €3,789 for a student living at home.
Although some costs such as rent have fallen this year, many students have struggled to find work during the summer and have been unable to put away savings to help them through the college year.
"We have noticed a 25pc increase in student loan enquires as more and more students require assistance, particularly to cover upfront costs such as registration fees or deposits for accommodation," said Tony Dennis, manager of Athenry Credit Union.
He added that the Athenry credit union had pitched its education loan rate at 5.4pc in order to help students cope with the costs of third-level education. The credit union's standard loan rate is 8.3pc. Guidance counsellors are also reporting increasing concerns about the cost of college.
Eilis Coakley, president of their institute said it was a long time since she had heard parents say they might not be able to send their children to college next month.
"How on earth is a family supposed to get a student through higher education with such a hopelessly funded grants scheme as we have," said Ms Coakley, who warned of a very bleak future for many students unless the issue of student grants and loans was re-examined.
She added that many parents were not worried about the possibility of fees coming in next year or some time in the future. They were concerned about getting their children through first year training, further education or third-level education starting in September.