Should I Live On or Off Campus?

Last week I attended a departmental party full of faculty, graduate students, and prospective graduate students.    Among all the discussion about academic topics, current movies, and the assortment of microbrews, was a good discussion about the cost of housing in graduate school (or college).  A prospective student asked me how much it cost to live off campus versus on-campus I found that I actually had a few things to say.  There are 5 main issues you must consider when deciding if you want to live on or off campus: housing, utilities, food, transportation, and your social life.


When people think of living on or off campus inmate immediately think about the distinction between living in dorms or living in their own apartment or other rental.    Dormitories, whether they are single room or apartment style, are convenient because they provide a lot of furniture, basic amenities, and you don’t have to worry about dealing with anyone other than the University.  I’ve known many individuals that have lived in university housing from college wealth through graduate school.  Students that live on campus generally prefer being close to their courses and not having to worry about dealing with others.

The cost of living on campus versus off varies depending on the institution in the city you live in, so you want to take a good look at exactly what sort of benefits received if you live on campus.  These benefits may include utilities, which I’ll talk about in the next section.  Living off campus means that you may have more flexibility in your living accommodations.  If you prefer to live in the downtown area that might be a possibility, or if you prefer to live in a more world area of town, as I do, that may also be a possibility.

If you’re interested in finding the cost of housing, I recommend taking a look at Craigslist, local university papers, and city papers.  Each of these are areas where landlords will most likely post rentals.    If you’re entering graduate school I also recommend you contact the department secretary to see if she or he knows of any housing options.

Personally, I have paid as much as $800 for a nice 1 bedroom apartment, all the way down to $350 for a very small studio.  Each of these served their purpose for me at the time.   Currently, I spent $650 for a one-bedroom apartment with a large backyard.

When you’re considering living on or off campus you also need to consider utilities.   if you live on campus generally water, electricity, sewer and garbage, cable, and Internet is included in your monthly bill.  This can be rather convenient as you have all of these amenities easily at hand.  If you live off campus, these may or may not be included in rent.  Often times, you will have to put utilities print this is electricity and gas) in your own name or the landlord keeps paying the water and sewer under their own.  In some rental markets, you even have to buy your own appliances for the home you’re looking for, though I do not recommend this.

A benefit of living off-campus is that you can minimize the utilities so that your rent is often cheaper than living on campus.  For example, I do not have cable and instead pay for cheap Internet, where I get my television and movies.  I do have a washing machine in my home  so I wash my clothing at home and drive them using a drying rack my living room.

All told, I spent $50 a month idolatrous city, a few dollars a month on gas, $25 a month on Internet, and if I do laundry elsewhere about $10 per month.   (One benefit of paying my own utilities as I am able to work with the electric company Rite Aid $50 a month for each utility, rather than the exact amount.  This is very nice especially when when there are peak and low periods).  For simplicity sake let’s say $100 in utilities.

Food is one of the most challenging parts of living underground.  Living on campus you have access to a meal plan and a dormitory, something that is especially convenient if you do not like to cook.  She do like to cook, or if you’d like to be at irregular times, living off campus is more convenient.  When considering housing for your 1st time you may have to buy a new kitchen utensils and appliances, but these can be bought at Goodwill in the Salvation Army for relatively cheap prices.

The average American family of 4 spends about $950 a month on food.  My partner and I spent approximately $600-$900 a month on food, mainly because we buy a lot of high quality produce.  However, I think would be quite possible for us to have a total budget of about $400 per month for $600 per month.  In college, I certainly had a smaller budget.  For purposes of this budget, but they spend $400 a month on groceries.

Obviously if you live on campus you have access to university transportation.  In fact, you may live so close to your classes that you don’t need to use transportation at all.  Living off campus however transportation does become a factor.  I recommend riding a bicycle I’m using the bus whenever possible, and in fact some universities have a partnership with local transportation where you show your ID to write for free.  My wife and I share a car, but it’s certainly is not necessary, so for purposes of this budget by transportation costs are about $100 per year.  In other words, in dollars per month.

Social Life
Finally, one of the most important factors when deciding if you want to live on or off campus is your social life.  Living on campus means you may have to follow more specific rules and regulations.   you may not be able to play your music very loud after-hours, you may not be allowed to have alcohol in her room, and you probably will not be allowed to have pets.  Living off campus to have more flexibility and oftentimes landlords will work out certain deals repay a pet deposit if you’re interested in having a daughter.  Graduate school can be lonely, so I recommend buying a pet, and this is often an important consideration your. Total cost for having a life, $0.  Priceless.

Some certainly not get it to you that you should live on or off campus, but I do think there are huge benefits to living off-campus.  If you have a little bit of money saved up and you know you will be staying at your university for 4 to 15 years, you may even consider buying a house,   But I do not recommend doing this to you have lived in town for about one year and know that you have been accepted and will complete your graduate program.

So, living off-campus I spent just over $1000 a month on housing, food, and transportation.  This is probably low nationally, but you could some hard work into where you live you too can find a budget that is reasonable.  Good luck and enjoy living economically humble!