Slight drop in students’ cost of living but “difficult” financial year ahead, survey predicts

Only one-third of students expect to have part-time work next semester

A drop in social activities due to Covid-19 is expected to slightly reduce the cost of living for third level students in the coming year, according to Technological University Dublin’s (TU Dublin) annual cost of living guide.

The TU Dublin guide projects a decrease in the cost of living for students living away from home from €12,171 to €11,948, while the cost of living for students still living at home is expected to drop from €6,771 to €6,305.

The guide anticipates a 50% drop in the cost of students’ social lives due to Covid-19 restrictions, representing a fall to €37.50 a month from around €75 last year.

However, TU Dublin Head of Campus Life Dr Brian Gormley warned that the coming year “will be difficult financially for many families”.

A survey accompanying the guide, which had 1,502 respondents and was answered by students in May, found that anxieties around infection and social distancing was the most frequent concern noted by students, followed by financial concerns. Many students surveyed expressed that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on their mental health. 

Although 63% of students surveyed had a part-time job in the last year, only 36% expected to have a job during the upcoming semester.

Gormley advised students experiencing financial hardship to “contact the Student Assistance Fund in your college, and they will do their best to provide advice and support”. 

“To respond to the challenges faced by students during Covid-19, TU Dublin is launching a campaign to raise funds to provide additional support for our students,” he continued.

“Some students also spoke of how Covid-19 is negatively affecting their mental health, and we would urge them to speak to someone, either a friend or family member; they could also make an online appointment with their college counselling service.”

Rent is the highest cost for students living away from home, with a national monthly average of €499 around the country and €596 in Dublin for a single room.

Although the average cost of rent for students has increased by 6.4% since last year, the guide anticipates a drop in rent costs over the next year due to the opening of new student accommodation, a projected decrease in international students, and an increase in the supply of private rentals as short-term units turn to the long-term market.

Mobile costs are expected to be lower this year due to increasing availability of low-cost options, with an estimated €13 monthly mobile cost.

Monthly travel costs are estimated at €123 both for students living at and away from home, while monthly food costs are around €170 for students living away from home and €61 for students living at home. 

Earlier this month, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) expressed concerns around financial hits to students losing out on summer work due to Covid-19.

USI President Lorna Fitzpatrick stated: “The vast majority of students in Ireland would have taken on many more hours in employment during the summertime to pay rent, for living expenses and to save for the coming academic year.”

The union called for students to receive the full Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment over the summer based on increased work hours which many would have planned for the summer.

“All recent research has shown that younger workers are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 related unemployment as the jobs in retail, hospitality and tourism have been worst affected by the lockdown – all traditional places of work for students in the summer,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.