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Rise in college students skipping lectures to go to work because of financial struggles

The survey finds that 55% of students say they are missing their lectures in favour of paid work.

 74% of students said they have to work during the college term to cope with costs.
74% of students said they have to work during the college term to cope with costs.
Image: Shutterstock/Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley

MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS of students are struggling financially at college, with some skipping lectures to go to work, a national survey has found. 

The survey of nearly 500 students, was commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions and carried out by iReach Insights in April and May.

It finds that finance and debt issues are students’ biggest worries, with the numbers  skipping lectures in favour of earning money rising substantially. 

The survey shows that 55% of students say they are missing their lectures in favour of paid work, up significantly on 22% in 2017.

Six in 10 stated having to work has a negative impact on their studies during busier college times.

A total of 24% say finance and debt is their biggest college-related worry, with 74% telling researchers they have to work during the college term to cope with costs.

The vast majority are in part-time work. 

The results show that 14% work full-time and 15% work ad-hoc hours, with students working almost 15 hours a week and earning just over €10 an hour.

Costs of accommodation 

Students say their biggest monthly expense is rent – at an average of €318 a month, according to this survey.

This is followed by food at €116 per month. Students are spending €88 each month on travel costs and €74 on utility bills.

Students living away from home are spending €1,047 per month, which accounts for €309 more per month than those living at home, who say they are spending an average of €738.

The survey finds that students will cut back on other items in order to make ends meet, with 40% of students stating that they would be cutting back on their social life, while 18% would cut back on buying clothes.

The results find that 15% will cut down on buying food and 11% say medical check-ups will get the cut.

The findings come a week after Education Minister Joe McHugh and the Junior Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor landed themselves in hot water. 

In a conversation about rental costs, O’Connor said students should make sure to apply for the Susi grant which could be partially used to cover accommodation. She later clarified that she would love to take out a cheque book and write a blank cheque to cover higher education costs, but she can’t.

McHugh said families who cannot afford to send their children to university should consider more affordable options in regional colleges.

Financial worries impacting mental health

The survey also looked at the impact financial worries are having on students, with 18% saying financial worries are a significant source of stress which is impacting on their mental health.

Just under half of students that are finding it difficult to manage turn to parents or family for help when in a money crisis. Around 22% say they would ask for a loan from the local credit union, while 12% say they would look to their bank. Just 6% said they would go to their third level institution or student’s union.

Over a third of all students surveyed say they expect that their third-level education costs will leave them and their family in debt after graduation.

The Irish League of Credit Unions  Head of Communications, Paul Bailey, said the realities of the impact of financial pressure on our third level students is apparent in this survey.

“It’s of concern to see that finance and debt is such a significant worry for so many students. At a time when they should be focusing on their education, it’s worrying to see that greater numbers are skipping lectures and sacrificing time spent on their education in order to earn some extra money.”

He warned that some banks will entice students with freebies around this time to encourage them to become customers.

“However, banks won’t be there to provide one-to-one budgeting guidance should a student need it.”

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