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Financial shock as college costs jump to €14,000 for students living away from home

High rents and rising food prices push the cost of going away to college to €14,000 this academic year


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The cost of college will jump to up to €14,000 this year for students living away from home.

After a year of studying from home, which kept a lid on outgoings, the return to campus next month will punch a hole in family finances.

High rents and rising food prices are key contributors to the projected hike in living costs.

Details of the Student Cost of Living Guide, revealed in today’s Irish Independent, estimate that students moving to Dublin will need €1,539 a month, or €13,827 for the full academic year.

The figure includes the €3,000- a-year contribution charged by publicly-funded third-level colleges, although most SUSI grant-holders are exempt or partially exempt from this fee.

The total cost of up to €14,000 represents a sharp rise on the €12,171 students were expected to pay going into the 2019-2020 academic year.

That was the last time when they were heading to college under ‘normal’ circumstances before the pandemic kicked in and caused chaos, resulting in long months of remote learning.

While many families saved money as a result of Covid lockdowns, others, where members lost their jobs, have been struggling on the PUP welfare payment and will have little or no reserves to call on.

Meanwhile, students who have been claiming the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) have been told their final payment will be on September 7.

The cost of living guide is compiled annually by Technological University (TU) Dublin and rent costs quoted are based on prices in the capital.

Third-level colleges are finalising reopening with the aim of maximising student presence on campus.

This year’s cost-of-living guide puts the average monthly rent for students in Dublin at €585, based on prices in the private market.

However, in the so-called student-hubs – purpose-built residences close to campuses – monthly rents can be as high as €940.

Rents for these dedicated residences, which are popular with international students, generally include extras such as wifi and leisure facilities such as gyms.

On-campus accommodation in universities in Dublin is a popular option, and always has waiting lists, with prices comparable with the private market.

The TU Dublin team did not include these figures in their calculations.

Jennifer Farrell, head of Student Support and Well-being at TU Dublin, whose office compiled the table, said rents in other towns and cities with third-level colleges may be lower than in the capital.

While rents in Dublin have been relatively stable over the past couple of years and even fell last year, they remain at a high base and are rising again, according to property website Daft.ie.

Daft.ie has also reported an upward trend in the cost of accommodation in other parts of the country, including cities and towns with third-level colleges

Economist Ronan Lyons of Trinity College and Daft.ie said the increase in rents was down to a lack of supply and warned of implications for students seeking accommodation.

Food inflation is also going to hit students hard, with monthly grocery bills estimated at €220, or €1,980 for the college year.

This is a major increase of €450 on 2020-21 and up €468 on 2019-20.

As well as rent and food, the guide includes allowances for basics such as travel, books and other college materials, socialising, utilities, clothes, medical expenses and mobile phone costs.

It advises of other potential expenses, such as clothing and rent for work placements, costs for travel other than the college commute, holidays or weekend breaks, loan repayments and saving for unexpected costs, which have not been factored into the table

Without having to fork out for rent, and not having to pay for most meals, the bottom line for students living at home is €6,636, the TU guide estimates.

Depending on their timetables, students attending colleges that would normally require a move away from home may find it cheaper and more convenient to commute or seek part-time accommodation arrangements.

However, after a year of lockdowns and online learning, there is anecdotal evidence that students are keen to spend as much time as possible on campus.

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