More students struggle to make ends meet at college
MORE students than ever are experiencing financial difficulties -- despite a drop in the cost of going to college.
Rents are at their lowest levels since 2001, and are 29pc cheaper than two years ago.
However, it still costs a student who is living away from home an average of €830 a month in college, while those living at home spend an average of €421.
This works out -- over a nine-month college year -- at an average of €7,470 for a student living away from home and €3,789 for those living at home.
These costs do not take into account the annual €1,500 student registration charge.
Food, travel, clothes, medical expenses and socialising all add to the costs, according to the fifth annual survey carried out by DIT Office Campus Life.
Campus Life manager Brian Gormley said the drop in rents was the major reason for a decrease in the cost of going to college for the second year in a row -- this year down by 4pc.
But changes in family circumstances were leading to many students experiencing financial difficulty.
"In some cases parents have been made redundant, and students themselves are finding it much harder to get part-time work," he said.
"We would strongly urge all students to make a realistic budget and stick to it. If they do get into financial difficulty there are people who can support them in most colleges, and they should contact them as soon as possible."
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said that, with 452,000 people on the Live Register, it was not the time to force students out of education.
"With the downturn in the economy access to education is even more vital. Any possible moves by the Government to reintroduce third-level fees or further reductions in the maintenance grant will certainly put third-level beyond the reach of many families," recently-elected USI president Gary Redmond said.
"The Government continues to pay lip service to growing a smart economy -- however, it seems to place barriers to block access to education at every opportunity."
He added that with the 5pc cut to higher education grants in last year's Budget and the removal of the maintenance grant from students receiving the Back To Education Allowance, thousands of prospective students intending to return to college in September would find the doors of higher education institutions slammed shut in their faces.
Meanwhile, official figures released by the Labour Party reveal that only 40pc of applications for the HSE Back to School clothing and footwear grants have been processed to date.
Labour TD Joanna Tuffy said figures showed that only 49,000 applications out of more than 120,000 had been dealt with so far.
Thousands of families who badly needed this additional support would not have it in time, she said.