[Oliver Price | Contributing Writer]
What comes up must come down. And next academic year, with the construction of the new accommodation on College Lane, the old Halls must come down. Unfortunately, the prices have sharply risen. This academic year, the price floor (lowest weekly cost available) for a single, on-campus room was £93.10; in September, the cheapest available single will be £115.85 a week at Telford Court.
To put this into context, next year the maximum available maintenance funding, loan and grant combined, (from the Student Loan Company) will be around £7,320, available to those with the lowest household income. This means that when rent, deposit, and a second deposit for the next year’s accommodation are subtracted, a student is left with around £40 a week for the renting period, to cover food, books and other expenses.
Art student Kerrie Littlefield, added that some courses require a lot of supplies costs, further reducing the amount of money available for living costs.
“One off purchases’ don’t really apply for us art students,” she said. “For example, I am a 2nd year SFX student and for every project a lot of our student loan goes towards buying materials which can get very expensive! Not for the faint hearted!”
Rebecca Marsh, a Law Student at the University, brought up the fact that people could seek employment to cover the costs.
“They are gonna have to pay the rent money back anyway,” she said. “Why not get a job? Responsibility, work experience, and out of Halls rent is much cheaper. That’s always an option, but living in Halls you don’t pay bills, don’t have crappy insulation and get the convenience of living on campus. You pay more ‘cause you get more. But you don’t have to live on site.”
Ollie Brad, another student, criticised the expensive rents, saying, “not everyone will be able to either find work to supplement their loans, or find the time due to other work/life commitments. From my perspective these rates are ridiculously expensive for what we are and what we get – we’re not commuting to London to work the city, we’re students who need the weekends to revise and learn – especially those of us who do clinical placement 8-6 on weekdays anyway.”
Josh Broughton merely said, “The prices of houses this year are complete bull**** compared to previous years.”
Andrew May, the Director of Estates for the University of Hertfordshire disputed the estimated figure of £40 a week. Regarding using the deposits in the calculation, he said that, “you get that money back.” His revised figures gave the figure of approximately £60 a week to live on. However, this fails to acknowledge the fact that deposits are not reimbursed until the end of the academic year, meaning the funds aren’t available for living costs during term time.
May said that any students who are having financial difficulties can access a “hardship fund” provided for the university or can go to the Students’ Union for “Debt and Hardship advice”. However, the hardship fund is only supposed to be used as a last resort and is only available to a limited number of students.
Literature MA student James Crowley also criticised the new accommodation buildings. He said: “I’m confused. I just don’t see why anyone would think it’s a good idea to build what are essentially luxury flats for people on student budgets.”
When asked about how the new rent figures were reached, May said that they look around the local area and, “eight or ten other universities”. When compared “like-for-like”, taking into account similar facilities such as internet access, 24 hour security, and utilities, he said that the prices were “competitive”.
Prices sourced from university websites (Feb 2015)
However, when UniVerse compared the lowest-cost rooms at Herts with the lowest-cost rooms (with similar facilities) of 30 other universities, we found that the University of Hertfordshire had amongst the highest price floors for weekly rents, rivalling that of both Durham University and Bournemouth. The price floor of University of Hertfordshire accommodation was actually higher than even Imperial College London by about £10 a week.
When compared to the geographically closest universities, Brunel, Bucks, and Beds, Herts still has the highest price floor for accommodation.
With applications to the University of Hertfordshire reaching an all-time high, will an increase in the cost of living affect the experience of those students?
For advice on fees and funding, contact the Student Centre on 01707284800 or Hertfordshire Students’ Union Advice and Support at firstname.lastname@example.org.