The reality of ‘free fees is not as simple as it may seem. According to a recent survey, one-third of college students in Ireland turn to their parents for financial assistance for college fees.

Bank of Ireland’s Financial Wellbeing Programme commissioned new research to investigate the financial climate of third-level students. The survey, which includes 550 respondents, shows that many students rely on their parents to not only pay for tuition, but also other expenses, such as housing and transportation. In August, the government pledged to freeze college fees so that registration cannot exceed €3,000, and they decided not to introduce student loan schemes.

The study found that 36% of respondents said their parents contribute to paying tuition fees, while one-quarter of students receive help to pay for their commute to college—which is on average €315. The average third-level student earns a disposable income of €258 per month, yet 30% of students said their monthly disposable income is less than €100. Many students must also juggle work and college, with 63% of students working part-time and 8% working full-time. 

Eighty-percent of survey respondents claimed they make an effort to save money, mostly toward summer travels, buying a car and contributing to college fees. However, 30% of students said they choose not to “sacrifice on social life,” with almost one in five students admitting to skipping meals to save costs for nights out.


Student housing is also a complicated issue for Irish students. The survey found that 65% of third-level students live at home. Over half of the respondents receive rent-free board at home, making it the most common form of parental financial support. For those living in rented accommodations, just under one-quarter of students rely on family to help contribute to rent and utility bills. Bringing laundry home and taking food back are common, with just under one-third of renters admitting to these. 

According to the Zurich Cost of Education Survey 2019, the average amount spent on student accommodation was €4,219, while the average cost of rental was €3,750. Particularly, Dublin has the highest housing costs across Ireland.To compare, according to a 2017 report from the European Commission, Ireland has the second-highest undergraduate tuition costs. About 40% of first-cycle students in Ireland received a need-based grant, which was on average £4,600. The UK has the most expensive college fees—with a cap at £9,250—and students are able to receive tuition fee loans. Eleven countries do not have undergraduate fees, while 14 other education systems cost less than €1,000. 

Besides the free fees initiative, UCD offers other forms of financial support, though they often cannot be used for registration fees. These options include the student support fund, student welfare fund and lone parent fund.


Shannon Fang – News Writer