Accommodation: Students who live in digs 'more satisfied'
Students should seek the best advice on accommodation options close to college, writes Katherine Donnelly
For many students, going to college also involves a move away from home and finding suitable accommodation is an important part of the process.
The best advice for anyone looking for accommodation is to check with the college for which they have an offer, and/or the students union in that college, both of which are more than happy to point people in the right direction and to discuss the pros and cons of different options, and give practical tips on matters such as deposits.
This year, as has been the case in recent years, finding accommodation could prove very difficult for out-of-town students, particularly in areas like Dublin, Cork, Maynooth and Galway.
High demand for rental properties has pushed rent prices up to levels that many students cannot afford.
However, first years are generally recommended not to enter the private rented market.
The seven universities and some other colleges offer on-campus accommodation, which has the benefit of being modern and fully-serviced. They also reserve a certain number of places for first-year students.
However, in many cases, campus accommodation is fully booked, although applicants on waiting lists may get a place if one becomes available. The best advice is to check with the college for which the student has received an offer.
A lot more campus accommodation is under construction, but it's not ready for this year.
Many colleges also have privately-run, purpose-built student accommodation nearby, although in Dublin, at least, the rental prices for these have risen significantly.
In recent years, there has been a return in popularity of "digs", where students live with a family, either with meals included, or on a self-catering basis. This can be on either a five or seven days a week basis for the academic year.
Not only are digs more readily available, they can work out much cheaper than campus or house rentals as many overhead costs such as heating, electricity and other household charges are included in the weekly rates, cutting down on costs but also making it much easier for students and parents to budget their finances.
The "digs" option is being heavily pushed by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in its Homes For Study initiative. It is running a promotional campaign urging homeowners to rent out a spare room to students.
Home-owners in areas such as Dublin, Galway, Cork, Limerick, Waterford may have received a leaflet in the post outlining the steps they can take to register their spare room.
It works well for students who get accessible and affordable accommodation, while homeowners can earn up to €14,000 a year, tax-free for renting a room out.
"Digs are becoming a real affordable and viable alternative accommodation because of the rising cost of living in the private rental sector, and on campuses," says USI President Síona Cahill.
"We want to match students with a home to study in, and house as many students as possible as a quick and short-term solution to the student accommodation crisis. We are urging anyone with a spare room to sign up for digs at homes.usi.ie. Using homes.usi.ie is a win-win for homeowners, especially for parents whose children have flown the nest, or who are attending college the other side of the country," she adds.
Dr Brian Gormley of Dublin Institute of Technology's Campus Life Office monitors the accommodation situation in Dublin very closely.
He says that surveys have shown that students who live in home-stay arrangements are more satisfied with their living arrangements than students who live in student accommodation or in private rented accommodation.
Dr Gormley has also noticed a trend of more out-of-town students in Dublin commuting from home. "Students are telling us that it is more cost-effective to commute, even long distances, than pay high rent prices.
He pointed to a survey showing that between 2013 and 2016 the percentage of students staying at home with parents or relatives went from 40pc to 44pc. DIT surveys have also shown the number of students living at home with their parents has increased by 6pc in the past three years.