COUNCILLORS have accused UCC of using students as ‘cash cows’ and described plans to seek rent hikes in five of their campus-owned student accommodation block as ‘disgraceful and appalling.’
North Cork-based Cllr William O’Leary (FF), who raised a motion at a meeting of the local authority this week, called on the governing body of UCC to implement a fixed term rent freeze on the campus owned student accommodation.
‘This increase comes on top of a 19% increase in the costs over the past three years. I’ve seen reports that college authorities said these increases were necessary for maintenance of the accommodation. Surely the previous two increases should have been enough to meet maintenance costs,’ said Cllr O’Leary.
‘These increases were slipped through the back door without any consultation from student bodies.’ He added that some of the bigger universities need to stop using students as ‘cash cows’.
‘The definition of this phrase is very applicable in this case,’ said Cllr O’Leary, who asked for the college authorities to put in place a ‘fixed term rent freeze’ and ‘give young students a break’ and stop treating their accommodation blocks as a ‘profitable enterprise.’
Cllr Ann Marie Ahern (FF) said it is not fair on students and their families and said rent pressure zones were put in Cork in December 2016 but that this isn’t afford to student accommodation.
Cllr Noel Collins (Ind) described the move as ‘bare-faced robbery’ and said it is totally unfair for hard working parents.
‘If this extortion is allowed to continue it will only be the children of millionaires who will be in a financial position to have access to third level education,’ said Cllr Collins.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said there is no such thing as free education now and that they are all well aware of families struggling to ensure their children receive a third level education.
‘Some families are driving their kids to college from West Cork as they can’t afford to pay for accommodation in the city,’ said Cllr Carroll.
Cllr John O’Sullivan (FG) described the move as ‘a slap in the face’ not only to students but to the parents too and he said this type of treatment of young people is ‘appalling and disgraceful.’
‘To be squeezing money out of people when they are trying to get an education in college is appalling,’ said Cllr O’Sullivan.
He called on the Council to convey this sentiment to the president of UCC’s Student Union that councillors are supporting their stance against the rent increase.
His colleague, Cllr Kevin Murphy said he was ‘really and truly disgusted’ with this move and described the president’s reply about maintenance costs as ‘a lame duck excuse.’
‘The president and the governing body should have asked the directors of the college was this increase acceptable? That should have been the first port of call,’ said Cllr Murphy.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) said he met with the protesting students last week and gave then his full support in opposing the rent increase.
Councillors agreed that they would write to both the president of UCC and the governing body regarding their concerns over the rent hike.