Belfast Telegraph

Bill paying delays to fund students

Almost a third of families have had to sacrifice spending on essential household bills because of delays in the student grant, it emerged.

A credit union survey found 32% of families sacrificing spending on vital bills.

Research found 42% of parents dipped in to their savings to fund a child in college last year, with a quarter borrowing from their credit union.

The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) third level education survey also revealed the increase in registration fees have also impacted on budgets in seven out of 10 homes.

Thousands of teenagers across the country who receive their Leaving Certificate results on Wednesday will find out next week if they have secured a place in university in September.

Mandy Johnston, ILCU spokeswoman, said heading off to college is an exciting time, but can also be very stressful for parents and students as the cost of third level education can be a significant burden.

"Families are already struggling with the wider impact of austerity and the economic downturn and paying for college has become increasingly challenging for many," he said.

"This round of research shows that 84% of parents struggle with the cost of third level education.

"The increased registration fee alone puts huge pressure on family budgets but when you factor in all of the extras, rent, bills, food, travel etc the costs begin to spiral.

"Our research shows us that, excluding rent and bills, students are spending an average of 516 euro (£442.84 ) per month on day-to-day expenses."

The state's student grant processing system - Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) - was set up last year as a centralised system to replace applications to different local authorities across the country, but thousands of students were left waiting for months for their grants to be paid due to a delay in the processing of their applications.

The credit union survey found 53% of students who received a grant experienced a delay in getting it in the past 12 months.

It also showed eight in 10 students still rely on parental support to fund third level education, with parents saving for an average of eight years to put their children through college and handing over an average 421 euro (£361.31) per month.

Only 32% of students are living away from home, compared with 49% in 2011, while 66% work to fund their education and living costs.

Elsewhere, 57% of students expect that they will have to emigrate to find work after college.

Ms Johnston said there has also been an increase in the numbers of parents borrowing to put their children through college and credit union loans alone have seen a jump from 11% in 2011 to 25% in 2013."

"We want to let people know that credit unions are available to support both parents and students as they prepare for the academic year," she added.

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