Private colleges offer interesting alternatives
The increased student charge has narrowed the cost gap even further
There are a number of private, or independent, colleges offering courses through the CAO as well as programmes for which students may apply directly to the college involved.
Many of these colleges are well-established and have built strong reputations in the disciplines in which they specialise. They tend to concentrate on areas related to business and humanities while some have built niches in disciplines such as psychology, fashion, media and computers.
Courses available through the CAO are accredited by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), which has taken over functions formerly carried out by agencies such as the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). There are courses available at levels 6, 7 and 8, with progression routes that allow students to climb the qualifications ladder gradually.
Private colleges also offer courses through direct entry, many of which are validated by bodies from outside the State, such as universities in the UK.
Private colleges charge fees and, in the past, they have been considered prohibitively expensive, but with the increase, to €3,000, next September in the student contribution charge at publicly-funded third-level colleges, the cost difference has narrowed. Every year, increasing numbers of students consider these colleges for high-ranking choices on their CAO. Some students may find them attractive because the CAO cut-off points for course in a private colleges tend to be lower than for a similar programme in a university or institute of technology (IT).
Fees are generally in the region of €5,000 and have been fairly stable over the last number of years. There are, however, courses available for much less. For example Griffith College offers a wide variety of computer science courses for €3,500 and the fees at The College of Computer Training stand at €3,200 for September 2015. Increases in the student contribution charge will not influence fees at private colleges. Also, tuition fees paid to these colleges are tax deductible at a rate of 20pc. Taking all of the above into account, the cost difference in attending a college which is included in the free fees scheme and a private college is smaller than ever before.
For many families it may prove more cost effective to attend a private college locally than support a student in moving away to attend a university or institute of technology (IT), where the budget has to stretch to paying for accommodation.
The majority of these colleges are located in Dublin and in other city locations. They tend to be smaller than the universities and ITs, which many students find appealing, but still offer the clubs and societies and social activities one would expect from a third-level institution.
Colleges include: Dublin Business School, which offers business courses, psychology, law, and liberal arts; Griffith College, which offers a law degree which is recognised for entry to Kings Inns as well as a number of creative courses including interior design and media. A new course for this year is a BA (Hons) in Design Communications; Independent Colleges Dublin, which offers courses in law, arts, accounting, journalism and computers. Pulse College which offers multimedia courses in Film, Music, Gaming and Animation. Many of these colleges offer both full-time and part-time modes of study.
Other colleges accepting applications through the CAO for 2015 entry include The American College Dublin, Grafton College of Management Science, IBAT College, ICD Business school, Portobello Institute, and the Irish College of Humanities and Applied Science.
There are many other colleges and you can find more information using qualifax.ie, limiting your search to private colleges. Potential applicants may also want to make direct contact with the institution, where staff will be happy to assist.