Third level and a change of mind

 

Sir, – Leaving Cert students who are contemplating their CAO forms at the moment will be grateful for the Change of Mind 2020 supplement and Brian Mooney’s advice about choosing your college course carefully (“Decision time: what should you study?”, May 26th).

He noted that if a student decided to change course after their first year in college and started a new course, the student (or more likely their parents) would have to pay the usual registration fee of €3,000 but also an additional course fee of €5,000. This total fee of €8,000 is prohibitive for most families and means that students are either forced to persist with a course that they have already decided is not for them, or drop out of college entirely.

A Higher Education Authority (HEA) Report published in 2018 showed that about one in six Irish students drop of out higher education, with 11 per cent failing to complete university courses.

Dropping out of college can have a major detrimental effect on a young person’s self-esteem, mental health and life prospects. It is also a poor return on the investment that the State has already put into the young person’s education through primary and second level. It is unreasonable to expect a young person who has no experience of college or working life to pick the correct course at age 18 and then give them no chance to reassess the situation if the course genuinely does not suit them.

This Covid-19 pandemic crisis has caused major disruption to students and will result in continuing disruption to school and college courses. It would be a kind and generous gesture to allow college students one chance to change their course at the end of first year and for the State to continue to pay the additional course fee. The young people of Ireland have been particularly impacted by the pandemic and have borne the restrictions with grace and good humour.

They will continue to bear the brunt of the oncoming economic fallout and their college experience is going to be considerably changed. It is time for the Government to prioritise the wellbeing of our amazing young adults. – Yours, etc,

MARY CANNON, FRCPsych

Professor of Psychiatric

Epidemiology

and Youth Mental Health,

RCSI,

Department of Psychiatry

Education and Research

Centre,

Beaumont Hospital,

Dublin 9.