The accommodation crisis has been well documented in recent years, with rent prices soaring and the availability of affordable accommodation becoming scarce. Many students are affected and are forced to choose between expensive accommodation or commuting long distances.
Neither choice is attractive when you consider hours of travel on cold buses versus damp rooms with mice infestations. But this is the reality some agricultural science students face in order to complete their degrees in colleges across the country.
It used to be the points race causing students stress and uncertainty. Now, once a student has secured a place on their preferred course, it is a scramble to find suitable accommodation before the start of the college semester. While it is having a negative impact on their college social life, the impact on their academic learnings is considerably more worrying.
Dr Michael Breen, programme leader, BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Science, SETU says larger numbers of students are commuting this year, which is having a direct impact on their academic performance.
“Traditionally, student accommodation would not have been a huge issue in Waterford, however that changed during the pandemic,” he says.
“This academic year has resulted in a large increase in students commuting not only from neighbouring counties like Tipperary, Kilkenny and Wexford but also from further afield.
“In ag science alone, we have several students commuting on a daily basis; these students are spending a large part of their day travelling and as a result are both physically and mentally drained.”
Dr Breen says this is having a negative impact on students’ academic performance.
“They are unable to dedicate the requisite time to their studies,” he says. “It is concerning that this situation will only worsen as the academic year progresses.”
What are the student experiences?
ATU Donegal: Patrick Kearney, Inishowen, Co Donegal
Final-year student (BSc Agriculture Animal and Crop Science) Patrick Kearney faces a long commute each day.
“I am currently driving nearly three hours a day [85 minutes up and down again] to get to college. It’s sometimes more with the current state of the Letterkenny traffic.
“I have to be out the door by 7.50am to be in the college door before my first class starts at 9.30am. I am spending a lot of time up at the college this year as I have my thesis and a pile of other assignments.
“I must commute because of the price of accommodation in Letterkenny. I spend about €130 in fuel going up and down every week.
“I work part-time at the weekend, and by the time it comes to Sunday I am exhausted. Getting up at 6.30am to drive an hour and a half to college leaves me wrecked.
“The odd time we go for a night on the town, but we have no place to sleep so you make do with the back seat of the car. The alternative is paying out €200 for a double bed up the town.”
SETU Waterford Amanda Norris, Co Kildare
Amanda is a second-year student (BSc Agricultural Science).
“I previously completed two years studying agricultural science at the University of Galway. With my sudden move to Waterford, it was very stressful to find accommodation.
“I used Daft.ie and Facebook housing groups to try to find somewhere to live; with limited options, I found a room in a three-bedroom house the day before starting college.
“After one month, I decided to depart from the house as it was becoming cold and damp. There was a mice infestation which we couldn’t control. I then commuted an hour each way daily for two weeks until I found the room I am in now. Considering the cost of living is so expensive, it is becoming very hard to afford accommodation in all areas of the country. Once the monthly rent is paid, money must also be put aside for bills, which have all increased significantly.
“By the time a weekly grocery shop is done and travel expenses are paid, it leaves students with very little spending money.
“The first few weeks of the academic year, I would say I was apprehensive about going out to socialise as I felt a financial pressure. I think many other people are in the same position and once the weekend comes around, students are almost relieved to go home.”
UCD Aine McKissock, Co Meath
A third-year BSc Agriculture Science student, Aine is majoring in Animal and Crop Production.
“I have been commuting 60km each way since my first year of college. I leave the house before 7am to get to UCD for a 9am lecture. Even at that, I will still be late to lectures due to the traffic on the M50.
“On the days that I don’t have lectures until 10am, I still leave around 7am as otherwise I would not be able to get a parking space in UCD, which is always an issue. There have been multiple times this year that I have spent over an hour trying to find a parking space.
“It could take me up to two hours to get home in the evenings, depending on the time I leave. Often I will have to skip my final lecture to try to avoid rush hour.
“Accommodation in UCD is difficult to get and for those who are lucky to get it, they have to pay very high costs of an average of €1,000 a month for a single room — I simply can’t afford that. Luckily, I could afford to buy my own car and I am within commuting distance.
“The biggest challenges are the long days. I get up and commute to UCD before some of my friends on campus have even gotten out of bed. My diesel is about €100 per week. I also go through four tolls a day, racking up a hefty bill at the end of the month.
“Commuting takes its toll on your social life as I can’t always go out with my friends on nights out. Luckily, I have made some great friends who often invite me to stay with them.”
What is the cost of accommodation?
The cheapest private room available on campus at University College Dublin (UCD) is €802 per month. This does not include the €735 booking charge and €65 security deposit needed for monthly
If looking for off-campus accommodation, the average monthly rent in Dublin city centre for a one-bedroom apartment is €2,032, while a three-bed apartment is €3,474 — according to Numbeo, a crowd- sourced cost-of-living database.
In South East Technological University (SETU) Waterford, the monthly cost of accommodation for a city campus double ensuite is €595, with an additional €300 deposit and €500 fee for utilities. According to Numbeo, off-campus the monthly price in Waterford for a one-bedroom apartment is €1,075, while a three-bed is €1,930.
Atlantic Technological University (ATU) Donegal does not have on-campus accommodation for students. It has a list of websites students can use to help find nearby properties.
According to Numbeo, monthly rent in Donegal for a one-bedroom apartment is €700 and you can expect to pay €1,400 for a three-bedroom apartment in the city centre.