The cost of going to college is continuing to soar – with the monthly bills for a student living away from home set to hit €1,000 for the first time.
Families are being pushed to the edge financially by the rising costs, according to new research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions.
The study shows that parents are dipping into their savings to fund the massive cost of putting their children through college.
But it also found that some mums and dads are so stretched trying to meet college bills that one in 12 students will drop out of college this year solely due to the financial stress.
The findings come as 56,000 Leaving Cert students are set to receive their results tomorrow – with many hoping to secure a place at third level when the CAO offers are made on Monday.
But the rising costs are putting a huge strain on the budgets of thousands of families.
Delays in issuing grants are forcing a third of householders to miss essential bills like paying for electricity as money is diverted to college costs, the research shows.
Thousands of teenagers across the country will receive their Leaving Certificate results tomorrow and will find out next week if they have secured a place in university in September.
Those lucky enough to get one are set to find it an expensive experience.
Eight out of 10 parents are supporting their children with college-related costs, coming up with an average of €421 a month, the research found.
The overall monthly cost is now €516 to cover daily expenses like food, travel, books, clothing and phone calls.
Adding in rent and utility bills takes the monthly total to €950, according to the league's research.
Many are funding their children out of their wages, but 40pc are using their
savings, with a quarter borrowing from their credit union.
The majority of parents have seen family budgets hit hard by the continuing rise in the annual registration fee, which will be €2,500 this September.
The fee will be €2,750 in the 2014-2015 academic year, and will rise to €3,000 the following year.
Rising college costs are putting so much pressure on family budgets that one in 12 students will be forced to drop out because they cannot afford the registration fee.
There has been a huge fall-off in the numbers living away from home while they attend college. Now less than a third live outside the home, down from 50pc two years ago.
And the majority of students told researchers from iReach that they were working to fund college. The average student is working 18-and-a-half hours a week, earning just €10 an hour, to get funds together to help defray the cost of college.
Close to half of students get a grant, but more than half of these have had delays getting the cash paid.
This situation has pushed a third of these families to delay paying essential bills as scarce funds are diverted to pay for university costs.
The State's student grant processing system – Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) – was set up last year as a centralised system to replace applications to different local authorities across the country.
But thousands of students were left waiting for months for their grants to be paid because of a delay in the processing of their applications.
The revelations about the spiralling cost of third-level education come as struggling families are rocked by the introduction of the property tax this year, multiple health insurance rises, increases in motoring costs and hikes in fuel costs.
And the credit unions' survey found that 57pc of students expect they will have to emigrate to find work when they complete their course.
Head of communications at the League of Credit Unions Mandy Johnston said many parents were going into debt to put their sons and daughters through college.
"There has been an increase in the numbers of parents borrowing to put their children through college and credit union loans alone have seen a jump from 11pc in 2011 to 25pc in 2013," she said.
Small numbers of parents are so strapped for cash that they are forced to use their credit cards to fund the back-to-college expenses.
"Families are already struggling with the wider impact of austerity and the economic downturn and paying for college has become increasingly challenging for many," Ms Johnston said.
"This round of research shows that 84pc of parents struggle with the cost of third-level education.
"The increased registration fee alone puts huge pressure on family budgets but when you factor in all of the extras, rent, bills, food, travel etc the costs begin to spiral.
"Our research shows us that, excluding rent and bills, students are spending an average of €516 per month on day-to-day expenses," Ms Johnston added.
AS up to 56,000 school leavers await their Leaving Cert results tomorrow with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, spare a thought for their poor parents who are about to face one of the most challenging times of their lives. I use the word 'poor' deliberately. fasten your seatbelts, you poor, beleaguered mammies and daddies, you're in for stormy times ahead.