The cost of being a university student is increasing at a very fast pace. Students and their parents are finding themselves living paycheck to paycheck to get an education.
Inflation has caused the cost of living to increase by 5.5% since last year. This rise has had multiple effects on the Irish population, but on students in particular.
Some families are seeing themselves having to cut down on their work hours to ensure that they will get the SUSI (Students Universal Support Ireland) grant payment for their children as their working wage doesn’t cover the cost of living as a student.
The highest amount that a student can receive from the SUSI payments is €5,915 per college year, which breaks down to €657 per month.
With the increased cost of housing and rent, oftentimes the SUSI payment isn’t even enough to pay for the rent, particularly in bigger cities like Dublin, Cork and Limerick.
Even if students opt for accommodation specifically designed for students, the cost is normally around €10,000 and has many features that do not contribute to bettering their education.
There are four examples of this type of accommodation in Cork city. Two are already up and running and two are under construction.
There are privately owned complexes specifically designed for students that are being advertised as having games rooms and cinema rooms. The price per year is ranging from €10,000 to €12,000.
Clóideach Walsh, a third year student in University College Cork, spoke to The College View on the struggles that inflation has caused for her as a student.
“The rising cost of everything has made it so much more difficult for me as a student, even compared to first year,” Walsh said.
Her rent costs €850 per month, but she has to rely on both of her parents to pay that, as she does not receive any funding from the government.
“The only reason my parents pay €850 is because there was nowhere else when they told us we were going to go back on campus so it was a scramble to find somewhere to live,” she said.
Walsh, like many other students, drives to and from college and has noticed the drastic increase in the cost of petrol and diesel.
The price of petrol and diesel has gone up by over one-third since 2021 and the government has recently announced that the price will not be reduced.
Walsh is originally from Kilkenny where she travels home every week in order to work her part-time job.
“To and from Cork is 60 quid a week and then another 20 to get in and out to work,” she said.
€80 a week on just transport is how much Walsh spends in order to get her education and get to and from her part-time job, which she needs in order to live in Cork.
She lives a 20-minute drive from campus and has started to get the bus in and out of college rather than driving. Walsh is also doing some of her lectures online in order to save money.
This is also due to the fact that she has to pay €2 every time she enters or exits the college car park, meaning that she will pay €20 per week on parking alone if she was to physically go into college every day.
Taking just Walsh as an example, it is already costing her €80 per week just to commute to and from college. This equates to just over one days worth of work.
In terms of food, Walsh spends between €15 to €20 a week on her groceries.
Although this doesn’t seem too excessive, this is down to the fact that she follows a vegetarian lifestyle, which is naturally cheaper and therefore she hasn’t noticed the price of food increasing.
Walsh has noticed however, the pressure that students feel to socialise after lectures by getting takeaways or heading to the pub, both of which have gone up in price.
The pressures of socialising after lectures is nothing new, but how much it is costing recently is a real surprise.
“Do you remember back in the day when you could have five or six euro and you could get noodles and spring rolls and a sauce? Now you are talking about 15 quid even with the Just Eat discount,” she said.
Socialising is not an essential part of college but it allows students a sense of freedom and takes their mind off the stresses they are experiencing from assignments and part-time jobs.
Walsh has acknowledged that even though the price of almost everything is increasing, it could be far worse.
“I remember when I was in first year, I literally lived off the €80 a week that my parents gave me. I put 60 into the car and spent 20 on the shopping and I could buy nothing else,” she said.
She now feels as though she has to have a part-time job in order to survive in college and an ever-more expensive Ireland.