The hidden costs of free education


EDUCATION in Ireland is supposed to be free, but each year back-to-school costs are rising for families.
Research carried out by Zurich in the Cost of Education in Ireland report reveals what parents estimate the cost of education to be and what the actual cost is.
The research also highlights those expenses incurred for children in secondary school almost double that of primary and third level expenditure is triple that of secondary.
What parents estimate the cost of education to be and what the actual cost is, differs significantly.
According to the report parents think the annual cost of education for primary school is €668, but the actual figure is €1,100 per year. The highest spend during a child’s primary school year is extra-curricular activities (€202) and then lunches (€194). The research findings also reveal that most parents (87%) don’t get a loan to pay their children’s primary school expenses.
The report highlights that parents sending their children to secondary school believe it costs them €1,207 each year, per child. However, the actual cost is €1,891 per year. The highest spend items for parents with children in secondary school are grinds (€368) and lunches (€224).
After that, the largest costs are school trips and activities (€220) and books (€213). The report also finds that in order to fund their children’s education, parents are sacrificing spending on holidays, summer camps and clothing to cover the cost of education.
Third level doesn’t come cheap and by the time a teenager reaches third level, parents are really feeling the cost of putting their children through university or college. The survey reveals the true cost of third level education in Ireland, and it’s not surprising to learn that accommodation and college fees are the highest spend items during the college year.
The cost of accommodation for the college year ranges from over €3,000 to over €4,000, depending if you are paying for rented or student accommodation.
Then, looking to further your education? The cost of many Masters courses can reach over €7,000 a year (for a two-year course). And that’s before you add in costs such as books, laptops and other college material.
When it comes to financing children’s education, the need for sacrifices follows the same upward trend – the higher the educational level, the higher the necessity for making sacrifices to cover education costs.
For example, should your child start third level in 16 years’ time, and live away from home, you would now need to save approximately €250 per month to accumulate €48,000 by 2037. Whereas, if your child is starting college in four years’ time, in 2025, you would now need to start saving €1,000 per month.
Here are some simple tips to help you save for your children’s education and alleviate some of the pain!
Start early. The earlier you start saving the less you’ll have to put away. 8 years is the average time parents spend saving for their children’s education
Think savings. If possible, any money left over at the end of the month should be saved. Top up your savings whenever you can. But better still save first; make your savings the first thing you pay into each month.
Open a separate savings account. As this reduces the temptation to dip into your savings for day-to-day expenses, and finally,
Monitor your savings. Keep an eye on your savings and always try to put away a bit extra each month.

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