Half of parents completely unprepared for high cost of third level education

Just under half of parents (49%) say they have made no financial preparations to meet the cost of putting their children through third level education.

That’s according to Aviva’s Cost of Education Report, which shows  that, on average, parents expect to pay out €5,122 a year to send a child to a third level college or university. If the student has to move away from home to go to college, the expected cost is almost double, at €10,125. 

The research for the Report, found considerable openness and some support for the idea of a student loan system with repayment to be contingent on the income earned by graduates. This is one of the options for funding third level education contained in the Cassells Report, Investing in National Ambition – A Strategy for Funding Higher Education.

Three out of four parents intending to send their children to college or university thought a student loan system was at least worth exploring as a funding option.  A quarter thought it was a great idea while 2% said it was the only way their children could afford to go to college or university. Overall, just over a fifth of parents were opposed to the idea.  Opposition was higher among students, at 35% but a clear majority (59%) felt it was an option at least worth exploring. One in four students thought it was a great idea.

The survey found that over a quarter of Irish parents (27%) are currently saving for their children’s education.  Most families have made some provision for the cost of primary and secondary school.   But funding third level education continues to be a financially daunting prospect for the majority of parents, although there are signs that families may be getting to grips with this major financial challenge.  Last October, Aviva’s Family Finances research found that 41% had made some preparations of the cost of higher education.  This latest survey, completed in May, shows that number has improved by 10 points to 51%.

Overall, 41% are either currently paying or intending to pay for their children to go to college or university and the majority said they expected to meet the cost from a combination of regular savings, salary or other income. One in two expects to get a third level grant for their children while 18% said they would rely on help from grandparents or other family members. 

Over a third (35%) has a savings account specifically earmarked to cover the cost of third level education.

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