USI urges Government intervention on student rent

Student chief warns rising rents and shortfall in accommodation will fuel dropout culture

Speaking at a rally in Dublin today, USI president Laura Harmon warned a combination of private sector rent price increases alongside the continuing shortfall in purpose-built student accommodation will fuel a dropout culture in third level education unless immediate action is taken.  Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Speaking at a rally in Dublin today, USI president Laura Harmon warned a combination of private sector rent price increases alongside the continuing shortfall in purpose-built student accommodation will fuel a dropout culture in third level education unless immediate action is taken. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 16:56

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) believes that Government intervention is now necessary to offset rising rent prices that may lead to an increase in college dropouts.

Speaking at a rally in Dublin today, USI president Laura Harmon warned a combination of private sector rent price increases alongside the continuing shortfall in purpose-built student accommodation will fuel a dropout culture in third level education unless immediate action is taken.

“Some opt to spend multiple nights sleeping on couches or in hostels every week - others aren’t even able to attain that. There is now a real danger that this will start to impact on retention rates and it requires immediate attention from Government,” said Ms Harmon.

According to the USI, purpose-built student accommodation centres in Dublin provide just 3,000 places, all of which are now booked out, for a city with a student population of over 50,000. It comes on the back of news that on-campus accommodation prices would rise by up to 13 per cent across four locations in the city ahead of the new academic year.

Speaking last month, former USI president Joe O’Connor suggested the use of Nama-owned properties to temporarily ease the accommodation burden for struggling college renters, who are now having to travel greater distances to attend lectures, according to Ms Harmon.

“There is already growing evidence of students commuting daily to Dublin from extremely long distances. If you’re fortunate enough to find somewhere to live, the likelihood is that it’s costing significantly more at a time when student finances are already past breaking point,” she said.

Statistics released by the Higher Education Authority earlier this week revealed that one in six students who began a course in 2010 had dropped out by the following academic year.

The report also stated that grant relief was no longer sufficient to help students remain in full-time education, saying: “Student financial hardship is increasing and for those in receipt of a grant, this monetary benefit is not having the same impact as it did four years ago”.

A recent student survey carried out by the Campus.ie website revealed that 45 per cent of participants had strongly considered dropping out of their current course at some stage.