A Government minister has told college students who are facing sky-high accommodation costs in the coming academic year to use their grant to cover their rent.
Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the means-tested Student Universal Support Ireland (Susi) grant could help cover accommodation costs.
That is despite the Irish Independent revealing last week that rents were being increased by as much as 11.5pc year-on-year in some university-owned and on-campus accommodation.
The maximum Susi grant of just under €6,000 would be totally wiped out if it was put towards the cost of accommodation in many student halls and on-campus accommodation around the country.
Also, not all students receive a grant – the eligibility is assessed on the basis of a family’s income and the number of dependents.
But Ms Mitchell O’Connor said yesterday: “I am very disappointed that student accommodation was put up in our universities and higher education institutes.
“But what I would say is there are Susi grants available, up to 48pc of our student population avails of student grants. So make sure now that you log on to the Susi application and make sure that you have filled out the application.”
Figures from Daft.ie show that in Ms Mitchell O’Connor’s own Dún Laoghaire constituency, which is home to Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology and within commuting distance of UCD, nearly 70 of the 91 currently available rooms in house-share arrangements would cost €600 a month or more in rent.
A student in receipt of the maximum Susi grant payment for a 30-week academic year who chose to live in such accommodation would be left with just over €50 a month to pay for food, textbooks, the cost of compulsory field trips, other essential college supplies and socialising after paying their rent.
The maximum Susi grant would also be insufficient to meet the cost of any halls or on-campus accommodation in UCD or Trinity, which are both in south Dublin. On-campus accomodation in UCD, located beside Minister Mitchell-O’Connor’s Dún Laoghaire constituency, can cost students up to €11,591 yearly.
Third-level institutions pre-empted the Government’s clampdown on rent hikes in the student accommodation sector by increasing their rental fees in halls and on-campus accommodation in recent months in advance of the new academic year.
In some instances, the increases are well above the 4pc cap that will apply to student accommodation in rent pressure zones from tomorrow – the same day as the first round of CAO offers are being sent out to thousands of Leaving Cert students who received their results yesterday.
Speaking in Blackrock after she congratulated Leaving Cert students on their results yesterday, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said that those turned down for a grant can appeal the decision.
She then bizarrely said that Susi grant applicants from her own constituency can contact her office if they are turned down.
“If you are turned down by any chance you can appeal and again you know you can contact my office if you are a local constituent, but actually the Susi appeals system is very robust and they will also help you,” she said.