When people talk about the rising cost of college, they usually focus on how much tuition has spiked.
If you’re willing to skip the on-campus experience, you can save thousands of dollars each year by avoiding the dorms.
While you may lose out on the convenience of living on-campus, the benefits can offset the losses. Off-campus housing is often much less expensive than school-offered rooms, so you can avoid taking out more debt.
What to consider before switching to off-campus housing
While you can save a lot of money by moving off campus, there are some areas where it’s not feasible. Before making the switch, compare the cost of college housing with the average rental cost in your area.
In some expensive cities, such as New York, staying on campus is much more affordable. Do the math to ensure you’re making a wise decision.
Living with roommates
Part of the college experience is living with roommates. While it may not be ideal, rooming with someone else does cut down on your expenses drastically.
If you are planning to go off campus, price out a one-bedroom versus a two- or three-bedroom unit you would share with roommates. It may be less expensive to get a bigger place with a few friends.
If living with other people makes you wary, keep in mind that it’s easier to share a living space when you have your own bedroom, rather than the traditional dorm setup. Coexisting in an apartment where you can escape to a private place is much more comfortable.
If you haven’t lived with roommates before, it can be a wonderful learning and bonding experience.
If you switch to university off-campus housing, consider the cost of transportation. Some schools offer shuttles for off-campus students, but not all do. Public transportation can be a cheap option to get to school, if available.
If not, driving to school can get expensive, particularly if you have to pay a parking fee or get a garage membership.
Dorms include the cost of utilities like electricity and water into their bill; off-campus apartments likely will not.
The utility bill can come as a shock, so add a line item on your budget for those expenses when comparing the costs of dorms and off-campus housing. Include electric, water, sewer, trash, and cable (thought your landlord may cover some of those).
One of the biggest areas you can save money is on food. College meal plans can be extremely pricey, and much of it may go unused. By living in an apartment with a full refrigerator and stove, you can cook your own meals and save hundreds of dollars.
In many college towns, landlords are willing to work with students and offer nine-month leases instead of the standard year-long contract. That keeps you from paying rent over the summer when you’re not there.
In areas that are in demand, you may be able to rent off-campus apartments for the full year and sublet it out over the summer. Make sure to check with the landlord to ensure she allows subletting. If she approves, subletting can be a simple way to pay for a great apartment.
Where to find off-campus housing
If you discover that it makes financial sense to move off campus, there are many resources that act as the perfect off-campus apartment finder.
Your college’s resident and housing services department may have a listing of area rentals that are specifically for students. They can be a great resource for affordable housing that is student-friendly.
College news site ULoop has an extensive classifieds section full of people renting out apartments and students looking for off-campus roommates. You can search by your location or by your school.
College Rentals allows you to search by your area and use filters to narrow down your search. Find pet-friendly apartments or rentals within walking distance to your school.
While Craigslist has its share of scams and fake listings, it also has legitimate deals for college students. If you find a place that seems like a fit, make sure you bring someone with you to view it. If possible, ask for references from past tenants, and never rent a unit sight unseen.
Moving to off-campus housing
In many places, you can save thousands of dollars each year by moving out of the dorms. Off-campus housing can get you more for your money, helping you cut down on student loan debt while giving you more freedom and autonomy. Do the math to see if off-campus apartments are worth it for you.
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