Wollongong students have resorted to budgeting their Centrelink payments to cover high weekly living costs.
The costs include average fees of $4, 400 per semester to live in University of Wollongong accommodation.
Director of UOW accommodation services Nigel Pennington said he understood the financial hardships students face, but said there are “facilities and prices that suit most applicants.”
1700 students living across the nine university residences pay $173-$309 rent per week.
This covers costs for utilities, cleaning, furnishings, security and support networks.
UOW accommodation is priced against a set GST benchmark.
To qualify, housing must be 75 per cent or lower of rental prices.
Mr Pennington said this is done on a full package basis because a straight rental price can be misleading.
“You have to look at the facilities that are being offered and the additional costs,” said Mr Pennington.
The additional costs of campus living are taken into account when accommodation services conducts market testing.
According to Mr Pennington this demonstrates university housing provides, “accommodation lower than the private rental market considering the support we give.”
The structure of university housing helps establish a living structure and community for students, the aim of which is to make students comfortable and independent.
Mr Pennington said this support helps students living away from home adapt to university life.
“Most [students] stay with us for one to two years and are then often ready to move into a private rental,” he said.
Anthea Jirgins lived in the self-catered apartments at Campus East for two years before moving into a private rental home last year.
Originally from Nowra, the 22-year-old encouraged students who move to university to live on campus.
“You pay a bit more, sure, but you get so many friends it’s worth it. You meet people outside of your social group and you get out of your comfort zone,” she said.
Ms Jirgins’ Centrelink payment paid for her food and rent, while her casual job paid for everything else.
Marketview resident Rachel Loveday also lives off her Centrelink Youth Allowance.
The 22-year-old’s parents pay for her accommodation upfront, while Ms Loveday makes contributions from her savings.
“I don’t have to worry about electricity, water and maintenance. I paid about $9,000 for this year and it’s a good deal,” said Ms Loveday.
Ms Loveday has supported herself with the payment, now approximately $407 per fortnight, since moving from Wagga Wagga four years ago.
According to Ms Loveday, budgeting is part of adjusting to student life.
Despite $2 million having been spent on the renovation of accommodation over the past two year, Mr Pennington said accommodation and facilities could still use improvements.
Words: KATHLEEN HAINES
Pictures: JANAI VELEZ
Video: ALYCE WEARNE