Why every extra kilometre cuts your chances of college
THE chances of attending third-level education can be measured in kilometres for many youngsters.
Those from poorer backgrounds are less likely to go to college if they have to travel to get there, 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 for the less well-off to overcome the distance difference. Every 10km from home reduces their likelihood of going to college by 2.7pc.
So, for a school leaver living 50km from college, the probability of higher education 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, according to the findings of the study at NUI Galway, the University of Limerick and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
There may be a number of reasons why children from lower socio-economic backgrounds do not attend college, but this is the first time distance has been examined.
Greater travel distance obviously leads to a range of additional costs, whether it is daily travel or having to leave home and pay for accommodation, food and other expenses.
A 2010 ESRI study estimated that the costs of attending higher education are twice as high for those living away from home than for those living with parents.
The new 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 50km or more, as well as areas from which the nearest third-level college was over 75km away.
While these areas tend to be more rural with relatively low population densities, the evidence suggests some geographic inequalities in relation to access to college.
The study looked at distance to third-level colleges generally and also distance to universities.
While the 13 regional institutes of technology provide options for students, families living in the south-east, south-west and north-west are most disadvantaged when it comes to geographical access to university.