Third-level costs are an increasing cause of concern to students and their families. Although the free tuition fees initiative for approved courses was introduced in the mid 1990s, students have to pay an annual registration charge for college costs other than tuition fees.
This has been steadily rising. It is now referred to as the 'student contribution charge', since it clearly covers a lot more than registration charges.
In the current academic year (2012/2013) the student contribution charge was €2,250. It will be increased by €250 a year in each of the next three years.
The charge is partly or fully paid on behalf of students whose family income entitles them to maintenance grants.
While courses in most publicly funded colleges are covered by the tuition fees scheme, independent private colleges must charge full tuition fees. It is the applicant's responsibility to check which colleges charge fees.
Ten of the 45 colleges participating in CAO are privately owned and are not covered by the fees scheme.
In addition, a tiny number of courses in some publicly funded colleges charge full tuition fees, but colleges generally highlight such charges to applicants.
While tomorrow is the normal closing date for CAO application, today is the last day by which applicants who have already listed their choices, may use the free online Change of Course Choices.
After that, they must wait until the change of mind facility opens from early May until July 1 if they wish to make changes (subject to the normal restrictions).
If they have forgotten some restricted course which cannot be introduced in a late application or the normal change of mind facility, they may amend their application between February 5 and March 1, for a fee of €10. See CAO handbook page 15.