BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
Ireland is one of the most expensive places to go to college in the European Union. Prospective first year students will soon know what and where they will study and depending on the University or college place that will determine how much their education will cost.
College fees are never going to go away it seems, even though there were rumours that the registration fee would reduce over time. Not for now though, so the annual student contribution, known as a registration fee, which covers student services and examinations will be a maximum of €3,000 for the academic year 2022-2023. If you are getting a Back to Education Allowance (BTEA) you may qualify for exemption from the student contribution.
The student grant scheme is the main financial support for students. It is divided into maintenance grants and fee grants. Prospective students apply through Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi)
The grant is means-tested, based on the family’s gross income for the previous full tax year, ie. 2021. If you have more than one child in college at the same time, the reckonable income limits may be increased with the distance you normally live from the college also taken into account. Unfortunately, if you must repeat a year and it does not represent a ‘progression’ you generally will not qualify for the grant.
However, second-chance students may be eligible for a grant under certain circumstances. A second-chance student is “aged over 23, did not successfully complete an earlier course and is returning to do an approved course after a full break in studies of at least five years”. You may do a course during this five-year break and still qualify as a second-chance student, if the course was below undergraduate level and meets the progression rules.
There are other financial supports available, Student Assistance Fund, Fund for Students with Disabilities, Bursary for Care Experienced Young People and other bursaries and scholarships. You can get detailed information from the Citizens Information at www.citizensinformation.ie. Completing Susi’s online eligibility reckoner will give an indication of the grant available to you.
The payment schedule for the forthcoming academic year is yet to be confirmed but the first payment is planned for September 2022, according to Susi. The bulk of college places will be offered on September 8.
Accommodation is a bigger headache for students and parents this year. A place to live is the biggest cost facing third-level students with some having to choose a course that’s not their first preference so they can live at home and commute. If you live outside Dublin and you receive a place in UCD for example accommodation ranges from €6,900 to €10,000 including utilities.
Trinity Provost Linda Doyle has described Ireland as being in a “real crisis situation” on the issue of student accommodation as she reiterated calls for more urgent and long-term solutions to the crisis. Speaking recently on Today FM, Ms Doyle said the situation represented “something that’s been in the making for a decade” and that “the general housing crisis is the reason why students now are having this terrible time in finding accommodation”.
She confirmed that colleges had reached out to staff and alumni on the prospect of providing accommodation to students within their homes, similar to moves in other third-level institutions in the region. Students can register with the Students Union Accommodation Advisory Service to link with a landlord for what may be a more affordable accommodation option.
Students can make substantial savings by opting to live with a host family, says TU Dublin student engagement and experience officer Dr Rachel O’Connor. “Private rooms in purpose-built accommodation in Dublin city centre cost €230-€258 per week. However, living with a host family this year is typically €165 a week for a five-day agreement, including utility bills.”
There may be other options available, and most colleges will have a host family database to help your search.
Then there is the thorny question of how much spending money is enough. TUI Dublin’s cost of living guide has a handy reckoner https://www.tudublin.ie/for-students/student-life/cost-of-living-guide/
For students living away from home, the guide estimates monthly living costs of €444, excluding rent, utilities, and the student charge. This includes €194 for food, €75 for social life, €64 for books and materials, €48 for travel, €39 for clothes and medical expenses, and €14.99 for mobile phone. For those living at home the costs shrink to €306 per month.