Students with under 300 points struggle to stay in college

Report suggests student financial hardship has increased

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

Financial hardship among students has increased in the last four years and is a factor in college drop outs, suggests a report from the Higher Education Authority.

Drop-out rates from some lower socio-economic groups has increased while students from farming and professional families were least likely to drop out.

A Study of Progression in Irish Higher Education Institutes 2010/11 to 2011/12, published today, also found students with lower Leaving Certificate points were less likely to progress from first to second year in college.

Students with 255 to 300 Leaving Certificate points were “struggling to remain in higher education”, it said.

The report looked at the progress of students from first year to second year in universities, institutes of technology (ITs) and other colleges around the country and found 16 per cent, more than 7,000 students, did not move on.

More new entrants to college were awarded grants compared to the previous study, in 2007/08, but the drop-out rate was higher for grant-holders: 18 per cent compared to 15 per cent for those with no grant. While, in the previous study, grant aid had a positive impact on the progress at ITs, it is no longer the case.

“This result may suggest that student financial hardship is increasing and that for those in receipt of a grant this monetary benefit is not having the same impact as it did four years ago,” the report found.

Construction, computing and engineering were among courses with the highest drop-out rates, although the rate for computing had improved. IT rates were 24 per cent, compared to universities at 9 per cent. Fewer women drop out: 13 per cent compared to 19 per cent for men.

The information, on full-time undergraduates, came from the authority’s database. A 2010 previous report also found a strong link between prior educational attainment and progression at college.

The drop-out rates varied significantly depending on subject, with progress highest in professional courses such as medicine. The drop-out rate for dentistry fell from 5 per cent to 1 per cent.

Those studying education, such as teacher training , had a non-progression rate of 5 per cent while construction and services hit 28 and 27 per cent respectively.

The report noted the drop in the number of apprenticeships and suggested some of those who would have registered for an apprenticeship were enrolling in courses and finding they were “not suited to higher education”.

The drop-out rate for those taking courses at Level 6 in ITs, the lowest level of course, increased significantly in all areas except healthcare and computer science.

At universities, non-progression rates for Level 8 courses improved over the time period, except in construction and services.

The report found improvements at Level 8 for science, agriculture and veterinary, attributable to “the tangibility of employability”.

Drop-out rates at universities for Level 8 courses ranged from 7 per cent at UCD to 11 per cent at UL. At ITs they ran from 13 per cent in Carlow to 24 per cent at Galway-Mayo.

Authority chairman John Hennessy said Ireland had one of the highest participation rates in higher education in the world and a very good progression rate, but we needed to understand why many students don’t make it.