The final days of August are filled with nervousness for future students and their parents. Drastic housing shortage and therefore limited possibilities to get a room in student residences add to the general stress.
The overwhelming joy felt at the news of splendid exam results confirming admission to some college or university can easily be dimmed by the search for accommodation. Last year the need to find a place to live caused a real headache. The situation, it seems, could not have changed as since January apartment rents have increased by 10 to 20% making them unaffordable for some parents. On top of that, the prices for rooms in university dormitories have risen too.
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Shortage of accommodation for students
Last year the surge in rental prices in Lithuania forced many students to apply for places in dormitories. However, due to the limited capacity of the accommodation establishments, the places were not assigned to all those interested. When asked if a similar situation could happen again, the representatives of the universities explained as follows.
"Vilnius University dormitories offer accommodation for 5,500 students. The university is constantly working to make these places available for students. Last autumn 95% of first-year students who submitted the applications could get rooms in Vilnius University dormitories. How many such students there will be this year could be clear only in September, when the accommodation agreements will be signed," reads the commentary provided by Vilnius University.
Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VILNIUS TECH) explains: "When providing accommodation, the priority is given to first- and second-year students, but, hopefully, the dormitories will be available for all those who apply. We also strongly encourage students not to occupy and/or reserve additional rooms in dormitories in case they are not sure whether a place is really needed."
In fact, in the middle of July 2023, Vilnius Municipality announced through its website that Vilnius University is planning to open five new accommodation establishments. The published project documents list five dormitory blocks, A, B, C, D, and E, and their supposed address at 17A Plytinės Str., which is not far from the now functioning dormitory complex in Saulėtekis av. This means that accommodation options for Vilnius University students should expand in the future.
The fees are getting higher
Those who are lucky enough to get a place in a dormitory will have to pay more. According to information provided by the Vilnius University Dormitory Center, this year, depending on the number of beds in the room and the number of residents, room rent prices will range from €55 to €240 per month, whereas last year the fees were from €44 to €174 per month. The cheapest option, a triple room for three people, will cost €11 more, while the most expensive option, a triple room for one person, will cost €66 more.
Responding to rising costs, Kaunas Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) increased the fees for some of the rooms in its dormitories, including the most expensive ones, charged at €210 per month, as early as September 1, 2022.
Mantas Simanavičius, director of the VMU Student Affairs Department, said that this year even the cheapest rooms will cost €15 more, as they are up from approximately €60 to €75 per month. According to the representative, the decision to postpone the introduction of higher charges for the cheapest rooms was due to the fact that they are usually chosen by socially vulnerable students.
"The decision to adjust accommodation fees in a two-step process was based on the situation of the most socially disadvantaged students, for whom the cheapest options are often the only affordable. That’s why last year the fees for the cheapest places remained unchanged. However, this year, in response to higher dormitory maintenance costs in 2022, we are forced to increase the accommodation fees," Simanavičius told news agency ELTA.
In VILNIUS TECH dormitory the fees for rooms increased last year, and this was because of the rising electricity prices. Vaidotas Trinkūnas, VILNIUS TECH Chancellor, said that this year the dormitory room prices remain unchanged, ranging from €80 to €240, depending on the number of residents and other conditions.
"A certain economic situation, characterized by the rapid increase of prices for energy resources, forced us to raise the fees in our dormitories last year. However, this year the rooms are charged the same prices as last year," said Trinkūnas.
If not supported by parents or not having a job to study would be difficult
During an interview on Delfi Day (Delfi diena), Paulius Vaitiekus, president of the Lithuanian National Union of Students, said that even today there are dormitories offering prices that start from €50 per month, but there aren’t enough cheap rooms for all the students.
"In some places, the prices are as high as €200 to €300 for a room in a dormitory. A lot depends on what type of room a student gets, i.e. on whether it is a single or a double room. However, the number of affordable rooms is very limited. Unfortunately, the cheapest rooms are not available for everyone," said Vaitiekus.
According to him, without receiving financial support from parents or having a job, studying away from one's hometown, especially in Vilnius, becomes unrealistic. Of course, there are scholarships, but not all students get them, besides, they are so small that hardly cover the cost of the cheapest rooms in any dormitory.
"Unfortunately, for students with no financial support from their relatives, the chances to support themselves are very scarce. One should keep in mind that incentive scholarships start at €60 and students who are granted them have to pay for a room in the dormitory, so to sustain themselves independently is extremely difficult. One of the options is additional help from relatives, however, as suggested by the research, the majority of students are working in order to survive during studies at the university," emphasized Vaitiekus.
How to survive?
You do not have to be an expert in mathematics to be able to calculate the cost of living in Vilnius or Kaunas and realize that for students it is extremely high. For some coming from the regions, who do not get a room in the dormitory and whose parents are getting minimum or a bit higher wages, the cost of living is simply unattainable. Since January the rental prices increased by around 20% in Vilnius and 13% in Kaunas. In July, the average rent for a flat in Vilnius was estimated at €600. Compared to June, the price increased by 9%. In Kaunas, however, the average rent prices have not changed significantly: in July, the average rent for a flat was €450.
Surely, students can rent rooms instead of flats. But one room in a two-room apartment let for €600 will still cost €300. To this, we should add utility taxes, as well as a budget for food, transportation
costs, and other expenses. Some parents and students think that the government could provide better funding for universities so that they could offer more scholarships and more places to live for those who have to settle away from their hometowns. Such actions could greatly ease the burden imposed on students. Otherwise, the chances to study can inevitably subside and educational opportunities can become a privilege for those who prosper.