MOST STUDENTS AND families first look at tution prices when thinking about paying for college, but housing is another huge expense.
The average cost for room and board amounted to $10,644 for the 2017-2018 school year, according to data reported to U.S. News by 1,343 ranked colleges in an annual survey. Living on campus can be even more expensive if the student attends a national Liberal Arts college or National University, where the average cost fetches $11,574 and $11,671, respectively.
But each school has varying costs for room and board, so the decision to live on campus can differ among college students. In some instances, living on campus may be the cheapest option compared with some off-campus choices.
• Your school is in an expensive metropolitan area. Financial aid experts says it’s beneficial for students and families to look at on-campus options if a college is located in an area where living costs are above the national average.
When you look at the metros that have exceptionally high cost of living expenses like New York, Boston and San Francisco, there has been research done that those areas can be significantly cheaper for a student to live on campus,» says Amy Glynn, vice president of financial aid and community initiatives at CampusLogic, a firm that advises higher education institutions.
Columbia University in New York City, for instance, charged college students $13,618 for room and board in 2017-2018, U.S. News data show. According to New York Habitat, the price for a room in a shared apartment can range from $1,000 to $3,500 per month for a downtown Manhattan abode.
Some college net price calculators, Glynn says, may even show a different price based on certain housing options.
• You receive a housing scholarship. Separate from applying for financial aid, some universities offer housing scholarships.
The University of Kansas, for example, hands out $250,000 a year in housing awards to undergraduates who live on campus. Awards range in size from $750 to $6,000, says Sarah Waters, director of student housing at KU. «Our housing scholarships would be factored into a student’s financial aid. But it would be seen as a scholarship.»
But KU isn’t the only university to offer awards to cover housing costs. Appalachian State University in North Carolina offers financial assistance to students who choose to remain in on-campus housing. The university awards a $1,000 housing scholarship to on-campus students who meet certain academic and school requirements.
• You work as a resident adviser. For some students looking to save money on campus, working as a resident adviser is one way to pay housing bills. These students help foster relationships among those living in dormitories as well as enforce the school’s housing rules, to name a few responsibilities.
«It’s a great way for students to save money if they’re up for the experience,» says Craig Ullom, founder of Next Path Learning, a company that advises families with college planning.
At KU, Waters says students whom the university employs as resident advisers receive free campus housing with a discounted meal plan. College experts say this type of compensation for resident advisers is typical among most institutions.
Avnee Mistry, a senior at the University of Florida, says working as an RA for the last three years has not only helped her pay living expenses but has also given her leadership skills.
“The amount that we get paid more than covers our housing costs,” the preveterinarian major says. The 21-year-old from Naples, Florida, receives a paycheck and a meal plan.
• You plan to return home during the summer. Most leases for off-campus residences are 12 months long. On top of that, living off campus might also mean paying for electricity, gas and water bills. Unlike apartments, most dormitories don’t require a security deposit.
Ullom from Next Path Learning says students should calculate the monthly cost of living off campus based on a 12-month lease and compare that with on-campus housing options. «You need to figure out the monthly costs while you are in attendance,» he says.
• You’re able to choose a lower-priced, on-campus housing option. Some schools offer a broad range of room rates, and some may be substantially less expensive, experts say.