German DCU student praises budget measures but stresses 'steep' cost compared to home

German DCU student praises budget measures but stresses 'steep' cost compared to home

Vincent Rastfeld: “The fact that some are paying €1,000 a month for student accommodation is something that won’t stop shocking me for a long time.” Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Dublin City University student Vincent Rastfeld saved up to be able to move to Ireland to study here. 

The 24-year-old, who is originally from Duisburg in Germany, admits he is “very fortunate” to be supported by his parents.

“You’re changing your living destination to a much more expensive country and the master's programme is time-consuming so you can’t work.”

He knew Ireland would be more expensive than Germany but was shocked to see the cost of rent here.

In Dublin, Mr Rastfeld pays €750 a month for a room in purpose-built student accommodation at DCU. As regards value for money, he says his accommodation as “alright” but “very expensive” when compared with Germany.

“The fact that it’s only alright is quite shocking to me,” he said.

While studying for his undergraduate degree in Bonn he paid €450 per month in rent, which he said was quite expensive by German standards as Bonn is a "student city". For that price he had a “very large” bedroom in a “very nice” apartment.

He describes housing in Ireland as “the elephant in the room", adding: “I have friends from Germany doing an Erasmus here and they are paying €250 a week which is crazy. 

“The fact that some are paying €1,000 a month for student accommodation is something that won’t stop shocking me for a long time,” he said.

Vincent Rastfeld was surprised by the fact that public transport prices were lowered in Ireland, something he said would rarely happen in Germany. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
Vincent Rastfeld was surprised by the fact that public transport prices were lowered in Ireland, something he said would rarely happen in Germany. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Mr Rastfeld described the newly announced €500 tax credit as a “sensible choice", one he thinks will benefit a lot of students in private rented accommodation.

“€500 for the year isn’t a lot but it’s still a good amount. At least it’s a bit of one month’s rent,” he said.

His rent is worked out at a daily rate, while electricity, gas and broadband cost €52 per month. It usually totals €750 a month on average.

Mr Rastfeld spends €40-€50 per week on groceries, much more than his weekly spend of roughly €15 per week in Germany.

He said the fees that third-level students pay in Ireland are a “major factor” in why students struggle here.

He said:

In Germany, you pay around €300-€400 for the whole semester, and here I pay €8,700 for the year.

Although he says the investment of the money back into universities in Ireland is easy to see, he believes the cost of third-level education here is “very expensive".

”Student costs that are in the thousands for a semester are very steep,” he said.

Reacting to the student fee reduction, he said: “I didn’t see that coming. It wasn’t made very clear who will really profit from this, it seems like it’s for all students but I’m not sure.” 

He said the €1,000 fee reduction is “a lot of money” and that it will make studying a “little bit more affordable,” for many students.

Vincent Rastfeld spends €40-€50 per week on groceries here, much more than his weekly spend of roughly €15 per week in Germany. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
Vincent Rastfeld spends €40-€50 per week on groceries here, much more than his weekly spend of roughly €15 per week in Germany. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

He was surprised by the fact that public transport prices were lowered in Ireland, something he said would rarely happen in Germany.

“It definitely made things better because with the student leap card, it isn’t that expensive to get around, and I use that quite a bit."

Mr Rastfeld said the extension of the public transport fare reduction will help many students.

“It’s an indiscriminatory way of reducing costs because most students rely on public transport."

Increase in student grant is the first reversal of recession-era austerity cuts

Jess Casey

An increase in the student grant is the first since savage recession-era cuts. From next September, the Susi grant will rise by an extra €200.

In 2012, changes to the scheme saw the distance that students must live from their college in order to qualify for the higher rate of grant increaseed from 24km to 45km. an extra grant rates as theThis distance will now be reduced from 45k to 30km.

The income criteria for qualifying for student grants will also rise by €1,000, which the Department of Further and Higher Education
believes will allow more families to access support.

The department has also secured €22m for college mental health services and for the student assistance fund.

The €250 fee to take up a post-Leaving Certificate course is also set to be waived.

However, it is very easily argued that the grant increase does not reflect the extreme hikes in the cost of college for students in recent years, which has mainly come via escalating rents. The extra €200 will come into effect from September 2022, offering little relief to students currently feeling the pinch financially.

Budget 2022 also includes no changes to the student contribution fee, which amounts to €3,000 and must be paid by all students, excluding those in receipt of the Susi grant.

Both the previous and the current governments have been accused of playing kick-to-touch with implementing the findings of the Cassell report on the future of funding higher education since it was first published in 2016.

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, said on Budget Day that yesterday that he will be bringing an update on the Cassell report in the “near future”.

As a first step, €200m will be invested in higher education between now and the end of 2022. Given that the report highlighted that the sector would require an additional €600m by 2020 — either through public coffers, an increase in student fees, or a mix of both — it seems unlikely the nettle that is core funding will be grasped by 2022.

Cuts to third-level contribution fees but colleges say funding gap needs closing

Jess Casey 

Budget 2023 goes some way towards addressing the immediate financial pressures students face this winter, but colleges say the once-off measures do little to address underfunding in the sector.

Some once-off measures announced yesterday for the third-level sector include:

  • An immediate €1,000 reduction in the undergraduate student contribution fee for students on the free fees initiative, from €3,000 to €2,000;
  • An extra payment for all student maintenance grant recipients due before Christmas;
  • Funding for the third-level sector to assist with rising energy costs.

Student contribution fees will also be reduced by €500 for families earning between €62,000 to €100,000. The income limit to qualify for a 50% reduction in contribution fees under Susi will be increased from €55,240 to €62,000 and all Susi maintenance grants will be increased by between 10% and 14% in September 2023.

There will also be an increase of €500 in the postgraduate contribution grant for eligible students. The measures to provide extra support for students are welcome and much needed, according to the Irish Universities Association (IUA). However, it added that the amount provided for the deficit in core funding at €40m is “very disappointing” representing just 13% of the €307m gap in funding identified by the government.

IUA director general Jim Miley said: “There needs to be greater urgency in closing the funding gap in higher education. An accelerated funding programme is required if we are to make a meaningful impact on student-staff ratios.”

Jospeh Ryan, Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) chief executive, said the reduction in student fees and increased grant payments will greatly benefit students.

“However, we have stated unequivocally to Government that any reduction in student payments must be balanced by full restoration of these to each higher education institution, as the fees are used for student tuition, student services, and other supports.”

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