Campus living causing financial stress

Student accommodation attracts thousands of new tenants each year but some students complain campus living comes with a huge financial burden.

Often, young people who move into student accommodation are leaving the comfort of the family home for the first time. And many students living in dormitories or campuses say they need the financial support of family to get by.

RMIT international student and UniLodge resident, Vinh Vu, lives alone and says he already spends $2200 per month on rent, not including bills and other expenses.

“I only earn around $250 per week. The government doesn’t give me any money [so] my parents have to give about $1500 extra per month to help me cover costs,” the 20-year-old says.

“I have to work every week, during school I work three shifts or around 20 to 25 hours because I need time to study but in the holidays I work around 30 to 40 hours. It’s hard because there isn’t much support for [international students],” Vu adds.

Australian citizens aged over 18 and required to live away from the parental home to study can be eligible for Centrelink payments of up to $414.40 a fortnight, not including rental assistance.

A one bedroom apartment at RMIT Village, located on the northern skirts of the CBD, costs $417 per week on a 52-week contract while a studio apartment shared between two costs $270 per week per person. This cost does not include internet or food.

Catalyst contacted RMIT Village to ask about the affordability of their accommodation, but they did not respond to us by deadline.

Local science student, Rhiannon Spears, 18,  also agrees student accommodation can cost far more than renting a house with other people.

“Living in student accommodation was more expensive and annoying. We’d have to share facilities like the bathroom with eight to twelve other people. I’m much happier renting a house with housemates now,” she said.

The average cost for a standard studio apartment could set students back anywhere between $250 to $350 per week, not including bills and other expenses whilst renting in a shared house in the suburbs can cost as little as $500 to $600 per month.

But many students are drawn to student accommodation because of the convenient proximity to university and the sense of community among the students.

“I wanted to live in student accommodation because I wanted to meet new friends and couldn’t be bothered travelling from home to uni,” Spears said.

Vu agrees the social aspect of student accommodation is a major drawcard.

“It’s more comforting being close to friends and lots of people than living by yourself,” said Vu.

Figures from the Department of Social Services also reveal foreign students are being caught in a political housing row. They show 70 percent of the units built on or near university campuses in Victoria under the Labor government’s National Rental Assistance Scheme are filled by international students.

The National Rental Assistance Scheme was designed to help low income and disadvantaged workers access affordable rent.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has announced an investigation into the scheme, saying it had been heavily exploited by universities and property developers to construct buildings to attract foreign students.

Whilst RMIT doesn’t have its own campus lodging like some other Melbourne education institutions, it is affiliated with several student accommodation providers in the private sector, such as RMIT Village.

By Ellijahna Victoria


Picture via Flickr

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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