Ask Brian: What are the financial costs of my son dropping out of his course?

If he withdraws before February 1st he will avoid clocking up significant charges

Students thinking of dropping out of their course must act quickly to avoid incurring hefty charges. Photograph: iStock

Students thinking of dropping out of their course must act quickly to avoid incurring hefty charges. Photograph: iStock


Question: My son is very unhappy with his course in our local institute of technology. What are the financial implications of dropping out? We have paid half the fees and the second tranche is due shortly.

Answer: The half-year mark in first year is often the moment of truth for students. The reality of digesting the first set of assessment results can be a wake-up call for those who are struggling.

Firstly, he should discuss his situation with lecturers. If he still feels the course is still not for him, he needs to act now.

He – and you – can avoid clocking up hefty bills if he withdraws before February 1st.

He must first write formally to the registrar in his college (I would advise registering the letter), advising them that he wants to withdraw immediately.

This means you son will not be billed with the remaining €1,500 balance of the €3,000 college registration fee.

But there’s more. Each college receives about €4,000 in funding per student each year from the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

This is paid in two tranches, with the second chunk paid from February 1st. The HEA will only pay this sum to a college on behalf of a student once. This means repeat students end up footing this bill.

If you act now, you will avoid your son having to pay the second half of this €4,000 bill if he repeats or studies a new course next year.

He should also register with the CAO ahead of the normal deadline of February 1st in order to apply for a place in the 2017-18 academic year.

He need not list any course preferences at this stage. He has until July 1st next to finalise this choice.

In a longer version of your query, I understand his current course choices were confined to level six and seven programmes as he lacked the two C3s required for a level eight course in 2016.

Under the new Leaving Cert grading system being introduced in this year’s examinations – which will be retrospectively applied to all previous exam results – he will have three H5s, two of which are the new entry requirement for level eight programmes from 2017 onwards.

Naturally, he will be limited in his course choices by whatever points he secured in 2016 as they translate into the new points system being applied from this year.

He should carefully review the range of courses within those parameters over the next five months before he finalises his new course choice.

If he is successful in securing a college place in August, he will pay the same €3,000 registration charge.

Remember: once his new college submits his name to the HEA to secure payment in lieu of fees, they will be advised that only half of the €4,000 is available in funding because he dropped out just before the half-way stage of his course.

The college will then seek reimbursement of this sum of money – €2,000 at a minimum – from him.