Students protested outside Leinster House on Tuesday afternoon as part of three protests across the country calling for the cost of third-level education to be decreased.
Cameron Carlile (18), who is in her first year of studying geospatial surveying at the Technological University of Dublin was one of the students protesting on Tuesday because of the "disgraceful" cost of college fees.
“They are way too high. They should be lowered because students are trying to pay for accommodation and utilities for living on top of fees and it’s just not feasible for us,” she said.
Ms Carlile is from north Co Wicklow and had to commute "at least an hour and a half each way every day".
She said the cost of transportation was “so high” but that the biggest impact on her was how “draining” the daily commute is.
“I’m exhausted going into college and leaving college. It means I can’t get to social events after classes and enjoy my first year,” she said.
Ms Carlile said she would prefer to live in Dublin but it “wasn’t possible” for her due to the worsening student accommodation crisis.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Claire Austick, president of the Union of Students Ireland (USI) said students had been "suffering" as a result of "a lack of Government funding".
The student contribution charge of €3,000 a year was “one of the highest in Europe” and should be abolished, she said.
“High fees coupled with the cost of rent means students are literally being priced out of education or they are commuting several hours a day or having to defer a year to work and save up,” she said.
Other students had to couch surf or pay exorbitant rents due to a lack of affordable accommodation around the country.
Ms Austick said the Government needed to ‘significantly invest in a way that’s sustainable and effective so that regardless of a student’s background they can avail of education.”
Cost was “the biggest barrier to education” in Ireland and many young people “don’t even consider college because they know how much it will cost.
The SUSI grant “isn’t enough and doesn’t reflect the cost of living,” she said.
Instead, students were left “worrying where they’re going to get money for their next month’s rent or their next meal.”
The accommodation crisis had “worsened year on year” which exacerbated existing cost related issues.
This was due to the high cost of rent, student accommodation providers turning into “short term tourist lettings,” and many landlords who “would have opened up rooms for digs before but didn’t want to do that this year because of Covid”.
The Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris "continued to announce new college places for courses but if it is not accompanied by living spaces that are affordable, students can't actually get to college in the first place," Ms Austick said.
Another student who attended the protest, Shay Galon, told the Irish Times she was there to “support friends who have to commute ages to get to college”.
Ms Galon, who studies journalism at TUD said while her friends get two or three buses to college each day, she remained living at home in Firhouse and "would probably be left living there until I'm about 47 at this stage" due to the high cost of renting in the city.
“Things are so unstable for students. It’s scary,” she said.
The protest was the second of three planned protests this week. On Monday, students protested outside the Grand Parade Library in Cork city, while a third and final protest is planned for Wednesday afternoon at the Spanish Arch in Galway city.