College room and board costs increase with each passing year and constitute a large part of a student’s budget, no matter if they’re living in a dorm or renting a house in the city. For the 2011-2012 academic year, the average cost of college housing was $9,047, but this can vary substantially depending on the university.
In the following article, we’ll look at the various expenses associated with sleeping and eating during the college years, plus we’ll examine some of the most expensive housing programs in the U.S. and provide tips on how to stretch your money as far as possible.
The Big Three of College Housing
In the world of comic books, “The Big Three” refers to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. In the world of college, however, it’s a reference to the three areas that are most likely to drain your bank account. When you sign a check at the beginning of the semester, take a look at your detailed receipt. You’ll notice that the following trio plays a prominent role:
1. Tuition – This is the actual cost of taking college classes. Tuition fees are usually calculated “per unit,” which can also be interpreted as “per semester hour.” This means that a charge of $300 per unit would result in a cost of $900 for a class worth three college credit hours.
The money is used to pay the faculty, as well as employees ranging from office workers to the janitorial staff. If you take a class with a lab, additional fees will be added on. While the cost of books aren’t figured in as part of your tuition, expect every class to require some manner of textbook.
2. Room – This is the cost of your dwelling. Students who live off-campus will usually pay rent each month, while those living in the dorms will pay by quarter or semester. A large number of colleges require students to live on-campus for the first year or two, and the stated reason is to help them adjust to college life. My personal theory, however, is that it’s just another way to bleed money from as many students as possible before some of them drop out.
3. Board – The cost of food. For students living off-campus, they’ll need to either buy groceries or eat out at restaurants. In many cases, poor students will exist on cheap fare such as Ramen Noodles. Those living in the dorms will usually dine in the cafeteria, although they may have to choose from an assortment of meal plans. Some of these plans will only cover a certain number of meals, while others will be good for an entire semester.
Most Expensive College Housing
The rates for college room and board are always changing, but I wanted to share with you a list of the 10 most expensive housing costs in the United States for the 2011-2012 academic year. These figures were found in a report published by U.S. News.
10. Manhattanville College (New York) – $14,340
9. Dominican University of California – $14,460
8. St. John’s University (New York) – $14,600
7. Suffolk University (Massachusetts) – $14,624
6. University of California-Santa Cruz – $14,727
5. Fordham University (New York) – $14,926
4. New York University – $15,182
3. New School (New York) – $15,260
2. University of California-Berkeley – $15,272
1. Howard University (Washington, DC) – $15,341
How to Save Money on College Housing
If you’re looking for a way to save money on room and board while attending college, I advise you to try one or more of the following tips:
1. Take the Cheapest Dorm Option – When you enroll at a college, you may find that numerous housing options exist. If you want to save money, always choose the cheapest one. This means you’ll share a room with someone else and use a community bathroom, and you may also have to walk a greater distance to classes or even go without air conditioning. While this lack of luxury accommodations can sometimes be a pain, you’ll end up saving plenty of money in the long run. In fact, this can save you thousands of dollars per semester at some universities.
2. Become a Resident Advisor – Resident advisers live in the dorms, attend college, and they also supervise their fellow students. If you’re an upperclassman, selecting this option may allow you to get free room and board. In some cases, you may also get paid for your services. If the latter is true, just make sure that the amount paid isn’t enough to interfere with any financial aid you receive.
3. Live with Your Parents – If you have the option of living at home for free, you’d be wise to take it. Sure, it may not be as cool as having your own place, but the money you save will quickly add up. And if you’re lucky enough to have parents who are putting you through college, they’ll appreciate the additional revenue. In addition to saving on rent, you’ll also be able to skip paying for laundry, food, and a hundred other amenities that are often taken for granted.
4. Buy Instead of Renting – In some cases, you may be able to take out a loan, buy a home, and still pay less per month than renting or living in the dorms. You’ll likely need to take on several roommates, and you’ll have to factor in expenses such as property tax, repairs, and insurance. Once the house is paid off, however, you’ll have the option to either sell or turn it into a rental property that generates a monthly income for you.
5. Take Advantage of Resources – Many college dorms offer little ways to save money. Take advantage of all of them. Renting a vacuum cleaner will keep you from needing to buy one and lug it home each semester, while renting a portable fridge is another money-saving option.
Now that you’re more familiar with college room and board costs, you can begin to calculate how much money you’ll need to set aside while pursuing your degree. In many cases, people will take on part-time jobs to help defray the costs, while student loans and scholarships are also available to those willing to apply. Paying for room and board can be a real headache, but I hope this article has made the experience a bit more tolerable.
by Shane Rivers