The Grand Debate Finale: Off-Campus Housing

The debate is coming to a close, and Team Off-Campus Housing will now present its case. You’ll see that this post is formatted the same way as The Great-Debate Beginnings: On-Campus Housing, including statements from Team Off-Campus with rebuttals from Team-On Campus. This round of the debate will focus more on how these housing options will affect your finances. Before enrolling in a college or university, it’s critical for you factor in all of your expenses, including where you choose to live.

Team Off-Campus

If you decided that living on-campus is not for you, there are several off-campus options for you to explore. As with living on-campus, there are a couple of general considerations that apply to all off-campus living scenarios.

Statement: Having distance from your school community gives you space between your personal life and your school life. While it is important to connect with your peers and remain focused on your studies, it can also lead to quicker burn out if you never have time away from it. Living off-campus can make it easier to create a balance between school, work, friends, and family.

General speaking, living off-campus is the cheaper way to go. For example, you won’t have to pay for a meal plan. Meal plans cost far more than if you regularly go to a grocery store for your food. I’ll will go more in-depth with how living away from campus affects your college costs throughout this post.

Rebuttal: The commute can be a hassle. Distance can help you compartmentalize various facets of your life, but it can also deter you from going to class. Over time, it may be harder to convince yourself to go to class if it takes you more than 30-45 minutes on average to get to your school. You may also miss out on more school events and be less likely to start or continue extracurricular activities.

You will also need to worry about paying for transportation. If you drive, you’ll need to factor in costs like gas, car insurance, and parking fees, as well as overall vehicle maintenance costs. With public transit, some schools in major cities will give you semester passes with unlimited rides. That price will be tacked onto your tuition costs, and the passes usually expire at the end of each semester. Once the semester is over, you will need to pay for public transportation on your own.

Renting a House or Apartment

Statement: This type of off-campus housing is the definition of independence. No parents, no resident assistant (RA), just you and any roommates you may have. Make sure that you find a place where you won’t be paying more for rent than if you were to stay in the dorms or campus apartments. Some schools list the estimated costs of living both on and off-campus, but those figures are not always accurate or updated regularly. It’s necessary to do your own research. The infographic below illustrates colleges both over and underestimating the costs of living off-campus.

On-Camps vs Off-Campus Housing Infographic

Rebuttal: With great independence comes great responsibility. If you want that security deposit back, you have to take care of your apartment. This involves carefully picking your roommates, deciding whether or not you’ll have a pet, and making sure your guests respect your space as well. It is also wise to document (if it isn’t part of the initial lease), with both yours and the landlord’s signature, any damages the apartment has prior to you moving in. This way you won’t be held financially liable for something you didn’t do, and can continue to afford to go to college.

Staying at Home

Statement: It’s free! Unless your parents or legal guardians want you to pay rent, this is by far your cheapest housing option. If your parents also buy your groceries and cook for you, this allows you to spend more time focusing on your studies rather than having to worry about those extra expenses. Dorm life and staying at home is largely the same. However, you are likely more familiar and comfortable with the people in your own home.

Rebuttal: Sure you love your family, but that doesn’t mean you want to live with them forever. Personally speaking, I have actually grown closer with my family since having moved out. In terms of cost, there’s really no downside unless your parents are charging you a higher rent than you would find for a regular apartment in your area. Living at home may be cheap, but you’re more likely to hear, “As long as you’re under my roof, you will live by my rules.” It’s crucial to respect your parents wishes, but it can really drive home the lack of independence you may feel. Also, staying at home is not an option for those who plan on attending college in a different state.

This concludes the debate between on and off-campus housing, and it’s now up to you to decide which side won. When you’re planning for college, it’s essential for you to consider all of your housing options carefully. That way you won’t be hit with any monetary surprises down the line. If you have any other financial questions or concerns about college, check out some of our other posts written by Scott and other members of the YesCollege team like The 411 on Work-Study, 10 Financial Management Tools for Savvy College Students , and any of the other topics we have given advice on in regards to affording college.

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Nikki Martens

Nikki will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communications, Media, & Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in August of 2016. As a transfer student, she has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to navigate the systems of community colleges, private, and public four-year institutions. Nikki aims to use this academic experience in her writing to help others excel in their collegiate careers. She is powered by coffee and when she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with animals by dog sitting and volunteering at a local cat shelter.