Rise of commuter student as rents soar
Rising rents are forcing an increasing number of students to endure long commutes in order to attend college.
Students are enduring daily round-trips to Dublin from counties as far away as Tipperary and Monaghan because it is cheaper than renting in the city.
There has also been a marked rise in the 'digs' arrangement as students from rural Ireland seek to avoid rising Dublin rents.
Students in the capital now face paying around €5,000 for just nine months of accommodation through the academic year.
Average student rents in Dublin are expected to climb to €541 a month from September - up 6.5pc from €508 a month on the year just finished.
This is what students are paying, on average, for one room in a traditional house-share.
However, it is a lot less than rents of €9,000 a year - and more - that are being sought in purpose-built student residences, more of which are popping up around the city.
The new dedicated student blocks provide a welcome increase in supply of accommodation, but their prices are out of reach for typical Irish undergraduates and are more likely to appeal to international students in receipt of grants to cover accommodation.
The latest trends and figures have been compiled by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT)'s Campus Life office as part of its annual survey of student living costs, the full details of which will be published next month.
DIT keeps a particularly close eye on rental costs because, pending the construction of its Grangegorman campus, it does not have any of its own student accommodation.
The survey also looks at other student cities and towns.
The overall picture for rents nationally is that they are rising, but much more slowly, with an average of €430 a month, compared with €427 last year.
While student rents in Dublin are up an average of 6.5pc for 2018-19, it is behind the typical increase of about 10pc in rents generally in the capital in the past year.
Dr Brian Gormley, head of Campus Life at DIT, said the projected average monthly accommodation cost for 2018-19 had not increased as much as had been expected.
He explained that there were a number of factors at play.
Where students were in private rented accommodation, they were now "more willing to share rooms than previously, to keep down the cost of accommodation", said Dr Gormley.
But it was also clear that more students were commuting and this was reducing the demand for accommodation in the capital.
"Students are telling us that it is more cost-effective to commute, even long distances, than pay high rent prices," he said.
Dr Gormley said there was growing evidence that students' daily commutes were lengthening, as a result of which DIT had changed the criteria for eligibility for a scheme of financial assistance.
"We are conscious that people are spending a lot of money on commuting costs," he said.
Commuting long distances also made it difficult for students to embrace college life to the full.
Internal DIT surveys have shown that the proportion of students living at home with their parents has increased by 6pc in the past three years.
Some heat has also been taken out of the rental market by the growing popularity of home-stay arrangements - traditionally known as 'digs' - which offer better value than renting.
This is where a student lives in a private house, on either a meals-included or self-catering basis, with typical weekly costs of about €120-€150.
And while purpose-built student accommodation is too expensive for the typical Irish undergraduate, the increased supply is reducing demand overall and easing the pressure on prices elsewhere.
Many of the older, private student accommodation developments have also increased their rents significantly this year, as witnessed by recent protests by students at Dublin City University (DCU) over price hikes at the Shanowen Square residence in Dublin 9, on the capital's northside.
Dr Gormley believes that as more student accommodation comes on stream, competition may affect prices.