Billy Ryle: Kerry’s Students Excelled But The Cost Of Going To Third Level Looms

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Billy Ryle looks at the CAO Round One of college offers and how the cost of going to third level in Dublin can be restrictive for Kerry applicants..

The insensitive and ill-timed bluster from Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to college students to use their Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) grant to cover their accommodation costs, failed to take the glow off the wonderful results achieved by the 2019 Leaving Cert cohort.

Minister O’Connor must know that 50% of higher education students get no funding from SUSI due to punitive means testing of household income.

Does she know that the maximum standard maintenance grant is only €3,025? That amount might suffice for an academic year if the student is driving into UCD or TCD from Rathdown or Dun Laoghaire, while enjoying full board free gratis at home.

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However, Kerry’s high achieving students face a far different reality.

Students from Kerry need €9,000 annually to maintain themselves away from home. The contribution of €3000 must also be paid by those without grant aid.

There are many courses in Dublin that Kerry students would love to apply for. Unfortunately, unless they come from wealthy backgrounds or have family accommodation in the city, rural students are restricted to courses nearer home.

Rural Ireland’s young people, however, are high achievers and swept up a copious supply of CAO offers.

Any remaining self-doubt turned to unconfined joy on Thursday afternoon as a large majority of CAO applicants received a college offer.

Kerry’s 1,858 Leaving Cert candidates (926 females and 932 males) achieved outstanding results that paved the path to college.

Kerry’s CAO applicants did very well in Thursday’s first round of offers. On a pro rata population basis, Kerry’s CAO applicants are top of the class in securing college places. More than 70% of Kerry’s 2019 Leaving Cert cohort will progress to higher education.

The overriding conclusion from the points’ trends is that CAO applicants were totally focussed on the jobs market.

They applied in large numbers for courses with strong employment growth, especially STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses, which are seen as job friendly.

UCC’s flagship Biological and Chemical Sciences hit the heady heights of 498 while UL’s Engineering degree increased to 434.

There was strong demand for Business, Psychology and Environmental Science with IT Tralee’s Honours Business degree increasing to 307 points and UCD’s Economics and Finance degree crashing the 600 points’ barrier.

Courses in the build environment, construction and architecture are in demand again this year. Points’ requirements for teaching held steady while some nursing and law degrees saw a slight decrease in points.

HASS (Humanities, Arts, Social Science) courses continue to be offered at modest point’s levels as applicants have lost total confidence in the employment value of the liberal and creative arts.

The Arts Degrees at UCC, MICE and NUIG were each offered at a modest 300 points.

Most Health Science courses continue to be available only to those who can reach 500 plus points.

Dentistry at UCC, for example, requires a staggering 590 points this year – almost a perfect Leaving Cert exam result!

The was a significant decline in agriculture, dairy, nutrition and food-based courses. The uncertainty around Brexit could be a factor here.

51,513 CAO applicants received at least one of the 74,657 offers, which were issued on Thursday afternoon.

The offers consisted of 43,851 at Level 8 (Honours Bachelor Degrees) where demand is strong and 30,806 at Level7/6 (Ordinary Bachelor Degrees/Higher Certificates) where interest continues to decline.

53% of the 43,851 applicants, who were offered a Level 8 course, received their first preference, while 81% received one of their top three preferences.

A phenomenal 89% of the 30,806, who were offered a Level 7/6 course, received their first preference, while 98% received one of their top three preferences.

About 55,500 can expect to receive at least one offer of a college place before the end of the offers’ season. Last year, out of a total of 77,425 applicants to CAO, 46,603 accepted a college place.

The focus now turns to finding accommodation and the money to pay for it. It seems that many students may have to make a daily return commute from Kerry to Limerick or Cork if they can’t afford to meet the spiralling unregulated cost of student accommodation.


• Kerry’s 1858 candidates highly achieved in the Leaving Cert exam
• Kerry’s CAO applicants did extremely well in Thursday’s Round One offers
• An applicant was offered the highest course preference/s to which s/he was entitled
• When an applicant was offered a course preference, s/he was excluded from any course preference lower than the one offered
• In the second or subsequent rounds of offers, an applicant won’t be considered for a preference lower than that already offered
• An applicant who was offered a preference, which is not her/his first preference, may subsequently be offered a higher preference
• It’s not necessary to accept an offer in order to be considered for a higher preference
• An applicant who has accepted an offer is not obliged to accept any subsequent offer
• Accept CAO Round one offers by 5.15pm, Fri, 23rd Aug
• CAO Round Two offers and points are available from 10am, Wed, 28th Aug
• Accept CAO Round Two offer by 5.15pm, Fri, 30th Aug

• Billy Ryle is a Career Guidance Counsellor and freelance writer

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