The skyrocketing cost of tuition and fees get all the attention, but they are not the only cost associated with higher education. Scholarships, grants and other financial aid can greatly reduce the amount a student actually pays, but what about the cost of housing? Housing is a generally a student’s biggest expense outside of tuition. While many college students drastically reduce discretionary spending, a place to live is a requirement. Here’s how really smart college students (and sometimes their parents) pay for housing.
If parents will pitch in, or if you have friends or siblings attending the same school, buying a house near the campus can be a great investment. You live there for free and rent out extra rooms to cover the mortgage payment. You also get hands-on experience in home ownership, maintenance and repair. After graduation you can sell the house or keep it up as a rental property for other students wishing to live on campus while attending college.
Consider living with relatives or friends in the area, if possible. You’ll have the comforts of home, familiar faces every day and a quieter place to study than the average dorm or apartment. This works best if the house is near campus or if you have your own transportation available on a daily basis.
Even renting an apartment can be much more affordable than you might think. It will be a constant expense for four years, so it pays off to shop around. Doing your research online can help you narrow the search to a few options with the best value, so you don’t waste your time scheduling a walkthrough of every apartment in the area. Subletting an apartment can be a great deal as well. A person who signed a contract to pay rent and then needs to move will often cover part of the rent rather than let their room sit empty and pay the entire rent alone.
Several sites help you search apartments by location, size and price, such as Sublet.com and Apartments.com. Sometimes more personable methods of communication will help you find a place. Try checking bulletin boards around campus, craigslist or social media sites to rent, sublet or find a roommate. A roommate arrangement reduces cost for all parties by splitting rent and sharing the cost of utilities.
If you would rather live in university housing, consider becoming a Residential Advisor (RA). As an RA you are responsible for enforcing dormitory rules, coordinating activities, mediating conflicts and acting as a liaison between students and housing staff. Compensation varies by school, most commonly free or reduced price housing, free or reduced price meals, monthly stipends, tuition remission or some combination of these benefits. The position requires communication skills and a lot of responsibility, but the monetary and intangible benefits really pay off.
Your dorm room or apartment will be your other home for your college years. If you scout out the best prices or consider options outside of the usual, you can be home sweet home at the right price.