The True Cost of College Room and Board

Everyone knows that earning a college education while away at school means not only paying tuition, books, and various living expenses, but also parking, transportation, and even room and board.  However, if you were to ask most people what it costs for living on campus or an off-campus apartment, most people are unsure.  Because next to tuition this can be a huge expense, it is important for students to know the true cost of college room and board so a proper budget can be developed.

Obviously, the amount you would pay for room and board living on campus would be somewhat different from the amount if living off campus but before making a final decision it would be worthwhile to check both options.  One important note is that in some cases, colleges and universities offer low cost or even free dorm living for students who maintain a certain GPA so if you are a good student, talk to someone in admissions or the college counselor to see if any special housing is offered.  The cost of room and board will also vary based on the college or university you plan to attend.

In looking at cost in general terms, you would expect to pay anywhere from $7,500 to $9,000 a year.  Now, most private colleges and universities cost more than public schools so when doing the math, keep this in mind.  If you have plans to attend a larger state university, you would pay much less by sharing a dorm room on campus than you would with an apartment off campus, even with several roommates.  Although costs for an apartment could be reduced by increasing the number of people sharing the place, this also increases the risk for problems simply because of so many personalities trying to work together.

Let us look first at the cost for college room and board while living on campus.  In most cases, some restrictions regarding housing options would exist as a freshman with more options becoming available as you move up.  Typically, colleges and universities are more focused on students having expenses that directly relate to education, not housing so the only on campus option is a shared dorm.  Although you may cringe, the truth is that sharing a dorm comes with some benefits.  For one thing, expenses would be reduced but in addition, if you can room with someone you know, you have companionship, a study partner, and even increased security.

If you decide to look only at on campus options for college room and board, make sure you know exactly what would and would not be provided and what expenses would be completely your responsibility.  For instance, it is common for students to furnish the dorm to include bed, dresser, microwave, television, etc.  However, in some cases, air conditioning may not be included in the price, meaning to enjoy cool days and nights you would be responsible for that utility bill.  Again, knowing exactly where your money is going for room and board would help you with the final choice but also help with budgeting.

Now, for off campus living, without living with family, friends, or sharing a place, the expense might be difficult to manage.  While you might be able to get some level of financial aid when living on campus, any expenses associated with college room and board off campus would be your responsibility.  Not only would you be required to pay rent, but also water, gas, electricity, possibly trash and/or sewer, and of course, groceries.  Without assistance of the college or university cafeteria, the amount of food would likely be more.  Then, if you needed internet and wanted cable, you would be required to add that expense to the budget.

Although living off campus is the more expensive option, you do have options for reducing cost.  Again, having roommates is the quickest and easiest method but it would be helpful if you knew and trusted anyone living in the home.  Another way of saving is by looking at an apartment or house further from campus. Obviously, this would mean a further drive or being on a main bus line that coordinates with class time but in most cases, living away from the college or university means paying less rent since places nearby would be considered prime locations.

Although not always the perfect solution, as mentioned if you have family or friends who would be willing to let you house with them, the cost of college room and board would be reduced substantially.  If this were not an option, you may find someone in the town where you want to attend school who rents out rooms within a home setting.  In this case, you would pay far less than a roommate situation off campus and depending on the individual, meals may also be included.  Whether you end up on or off campus, the key to keeping this expense down is with planning.  As soon as you have the college or university chosen, begin looking at housing options.

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