The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) said a survey of around 870 students showed almost three-quarters actively thought about quitting college because of the costs.
About the same high number admitted having to continue to work during the exams’ period. A total of 63% said they had been forced to miss lectures because of work commitments, while over 67% said working had negatively affected their academic success.
Just over 61% said they had worked to the point of burnout to pay for college.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they worked more than 15 hours a week to pay for college.
USI said the registration fee of €3,000, the second highest in Europe, should be reduced to make college affordable for every young person who wants to progress to third-level education.
Its president Kevin Donoghue said many students were at breaking point due to the stress of having to work just to keep their heads above water.
“It’s extremely worrying that so many students are working to the point of burnout, during exams and missing lectures to pay for college.
“The cost of education is pushing students to breaking point. It’s unaffordable and the compromises so many students have to make to stay in college, such as working to the point of burnout, ironically restrict their academic success,” he said.
USI said a sizeable dropout rate and the rate of students who fear having to drop out of college is directly linked with the cost of education.
The students’ body called on Education Minister Richard Bruton to put more financial supports in place for students such as increasing the maintenance grant and reducing the registration fee.
The USI also called on Mr Bruton to liaise with housing minister Simon Coveney to address a crisis in student accommodation.