Living On Campus Costs More than Off Campus (Infographic)

living on campus

NJCU in ‘da house!

With the cost of higher education in the U.S. rising tremendously each year – over 500% since 1985 – it is no wonder students and parents get into so much student loan debt.  I mentioned that there are proposals being written to try and change that, but until those proposals are put in place, we have to deal with this price gouging if we want to get a college degree.

There are a few things we can do to avoid student loans, like 529 plans and working through college, but the fact remains that we still have to pay for tuition – unless we get a scholarship.

A college education is becoming more and more of a necessity.  Study after study has shown that people with a bachelor’s degree earn on average 66% more than people with only a high school diploma.

That being said, there are definitely ways to lower the cost of a college education. You could go to a in-state public school for example.  But even if you go to an out-of-state school, you could potentially save a lot of money by living off campus.

The folks over Movoto Real Estate, put together an infographic showing how living on campus costs substantially more than living on nearby apartments off campus.  They looked at over 1500 schools and compared the cost of living on campus to the cost of local off campus housing.  They found that 99% of on-campus housing is more expensive.  And this is not including meals, which may or may not be included in the prices of dorming.

As you will see in the infographic below, living off campus makes a lot more financial sense than living on campus.  But don’t get me wrong, there are benefits of living on campus that should also be taken into consideration – at least for freshman year.

Chances are, going to college will be the first time your child is going to be on his/her own.  And if they are going to a school far away from you, it might be a better idea to live on campus the first year.  Most kids don’t even know how to do laundry or pay for utilities.  They also won’t know the area too well and might have a hard time finding where to buy food and how to cook it.

I’m not saying they must stay on campus, all I’m saying is that it might be easier the first year.  After that, have them get an apartment nearby and save hundreds of dollars a month.

Living off campus will teach them a lot of valuable lessons, such as learning how to pay rent and utilities, and maybe, just maybe it will teach them how to cook something.

Anyways, take a look at the infographic below and tell me what you think.

living on-campus

The cost difference is pretty big.


Did you know living on campus costs this much more than off campus?


  1. This is shocking, but it’s not surprising, unfortunately!
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  2. Kara says:

    Interesting! Especially since some colleges in my area require students to live on campus the first two years….
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  3. I would totally believe it. Especially for stuff like meal plans– you spend SO MUCH MONEY on meal plans and usually get crappy food in return. I fed myself for so much less than the meal plan’s cost.
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    • Aldo @ MDN says:

      The other thing about meal plans is that they make you buy so much more than you need. I always saw students in school that used to give meals away at the end of the semester because they had way too many meals left and didn’t want the school to keep the money.
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  4. SavvyJames says:

    Like you, I believe college is a necessity for most, even though a lot of people question that wisdom because of the costs. However, the question isn’t “should I attend college?” the questions should be, “What is the best way to finance it and avoid taking on significant debt?”

    I always suggest people consider the following options to avoid/limit student loan debt: military service, college savings plans and community colleges.
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  5. Tawcan says:

    Interesting. I lived on campus for 3.5 years and enjoyed that time. I moved off campus the last 1.5 year and found the cost to be about the same. Maybe things have changed now.
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    • Aldo Rancier says:

      I’m not sure how much has changed and I can’t comment from personal experience because I commuted to school (lived at home). Even though the researchers found this to be true 99% of the time, they only show the top 25 schools. There’s probably not that much difference in other places.

  6. Makes sense that you can cut costs buy living on your own. As a freshman I would have found this tough. I was dealing with so much change as it was just by leaving home, I’d have had a tougher time had I needed to manage an apartment. In addition, I think it would be easy to miss out a bit on building relationships. Dorm life really can move that facet of college along. It would be tougher to connect if I was headed back to my apt. by myself each night. Good stuff Aldo!
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    • Aldo Rancier says:

      Yes, as a freshman living on your own would be tough. But after you get to know the area and have a small idea of what you need to do, you can do it and you’ll be fine.

  7. Michelle says:

    I always lived off campus when I was in college, and I found it much more affordable. At first we rented a house, and then we bought one. Either way, it was still cheaper. I know someone who paid over $1,000 a month for her dorm. INSANE!
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  8. I’m not surprised by this. I was lucky and lived with my parents through undergrad. My mistake was that I worked all throughout college but just spent all my money because I didn’t have to pay rent. D’oh! I also lived off campus for grad school, as the NYU apartments are crazy expensive.
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  9. This is a great and enlightening infographic, and it’s important to compare housing costs especially with the rising tuition costs. I went to school a million years ago (18) and it was cheaper to live on campus than off for me, but that was because there were not many rentals around my school and you needed to pay all year to keep them vs just school months.
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    • Aldo Rancier says:

      That’s a good point. People should see if they could rent for part of the year and not the whole year. Unless they plan to go to school in the summer as well.

  10. Living on a campus is not really ideal for me because my classmates used to live in a campus and their dorm was pretty expensive! I’m glad that our house is just near our school!
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  11. Brandy says:

    I didn’t live on campus and I’m sure it would have sent me into even more debt. However, I did use a lot of gas driving back and forth 3 days a week.
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  12. Kalen Bruce says:

    That’s crazy! I wouldn’t have guessed that. I love the infographic.
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  13. Sarah says:

    Interesting!! I would have definitely thought it would have been cheaper to live on campus. Wow!! The difference is HUGE, too. Thanks for sharing!!
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  14. I lived at home through university so I missed out on all this bonding stuff everyone keeps bringing up.

    Another point is that here in Ontario, you get a tax break for off campus housing, so it’s an even bigger difference here.
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