Four in 10 parents get into debt to pay for their children going to college

Parents of more than four in 10 college students fall into debt to fund their child’s third-level education, according to a new survey.

The figures show an improvement in the financial burden since the same survey in 2018 but, nonetheless, 41pc of parents run up an average debt of €1,400 over an academic year.

The highest spend item for students not living at home is accommodation with the average annual cost ranging from €3,750 to €4,219 according to The Cost of Education in Ireland report from insurance company Zurich.

The findings are based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 600 parents which was conducted in May.

This year, for the first time, the cost of on-campus college accommodation surpassed the cost of private rented accommodation.

According to the report, the annual cost of on-campus accommodation is up €777 compared with last year and is now running at an average €4,219, compared with an average €3,750 for private rented accommodation.

Among those surveyed, 51pc of students lived at home while 19pc lived in student accommodation and 28pc in other rented accommodation.

Outside of accommodation, college fees are the largest expense for parents and other costs included were an average €1,980 that parents fork out in general financial support for a student son or daughter and €315 for transport.

Transport costs are up from an average €303 in 2018, with a significant number of students, 19pc, spending upwards of €900 on transport annually.

Public transport is the most popular mode for getting to and from college, used by 56pc of students, while 30pc use cars as their main mode and 13pc cycle.

Overall, 70pc of parents consider covering the cost to be a financial burden, with 48pc reporting they use savings while 56pc draw from their monthly income.

However, according to the report, the number of parents falling into debt to cover college costs has dropped from 52pc in 2018, while the average debt is also down, from a 2018 figure closer to €1,600.

Of those parents who got into debt, 66pc were “in the red” to the tune of over €1,000, down from 79pc in 2018, while the number of those with a debt of €2,000 or more also dropped, from 57pc to 46pc.

Jonathan Daly, head of life retail distribution and propositions at Zurich, said the findings showed that the cost of college remained a challenge for parents, particularly for those who had the added cost of accommodation.

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