20pc of students are now in 'serious financial difficulty'
THE numbers going to college continue to rise, but almost one in five Irish students say they are in serious financial difficulty.
The sense of well-being among Irish students is also a cause for concern .
These are among the findings of a major, 10,110-student survey across Irish third-level colleges carried out in 2013 as part of a broader EU study on the living and social conditions of students.
Overall, 18pc of college-goers in Ireland – the equivalent of about 36,000 of the 200,000 full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students – are suffering financial hardship.
After years of austerity, it is no surprise that many students are experiencing serious money problems.
Among the key findings of the Eurostudent 2013 study is that student income fell by 26pc since the previous survey in 2010.
Average monthly income for students dropped from €997 to €734 and ranged from €545 for full-time undergraduates to €1,264 for part-time undergraduates and €1,219 for postgraduates.
But while income fell, average monthly expenditure remained the same, at €844.
Despite the decline in income, the average weekly spend on alcohol at €19 remained the same.
The survey asked students about the extent to which they were experiencing financial difficulties, on a five-point scale ranging from "no difficulties" to "serious difficulties".
Although there may be differences between how individual students defined "serious financial difficulties", the findings show a direct link between the level of financial stress felt and household income.
Students from manual social classes were more likely to indicate a higher level of financial hardship than those from non-manual or professional groups.
About 39pc of students estimated that their family household gross income was less than the average industrial wage, which was about €35,000 in 2013 At the other end of the scale, about 22pc of students estimated that the annual gross income of the household was greater than €70,000.
While 25pc of students with a family income of between €20,000 and €35,000 were in "serious financial difficulty", this was true of only 7pc of those whose family income was above €70,000.
Students derived their income from a variety of sources including family, grants or other public funding, and a paid job.
Among full-time undergraduates, about 41pc were working during term time. Those from professional social classes received about €144-€155 per month from family, compared with €62-€67 for those from semi-skilled or unskilled manual classes.
Finance is one of the issues covered by questions designed to assess depression, anxiety and psychological distress, which found 51pc of female students and 44pc of males had scores indicating poor well-being.
The financial difficulties experienced by students emerged as the main obstacle to studying abroad.
Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief executive Tom Boland said while the financial hardship reportedly experienced by many students was a corollary of the broader macro-economic climate, it was, nonetheless, a cause for concern. Mr Boland said the poor mental health and well-being of a large percentage of respondents to the survey was concerning.
Eurostudent, conducted in Ireland under the auspices of the HEA, is carried out every three years and the 2013 survey covered 25 European countries. It covers areas such as travel and accommodation, income and expenditure, employment, mobility, health and well-being.