Dorm Living vs. Off-Campus Living: The Best Plan Financially

Debbie Loper |

Going to college is an expensive endeavor. While most people fret about the cost of tuition and the rising price of textbooks, it is often room and board that can sink many college students financially. The average annual tuition in the United States at a four-year, public institution is $9,139 for in-state students and $22,958 for others. The average annual tuition at a private, non-profit school is $31,231.

According to, the average cost of room and board during the 2016-2017 school year ranged from $10,440 at a four-year public school to $11,890 at a four-year private school. So, this leads some students to contemplate ditching the dorms in favor of off-campus living. As a student, and parent, which one is the best plan financially?


The Case for Dorm Living

When students opt to live in the dorms, they might be giving up the lavish life at mom and dad’s, and may prefer living in an apartment off campus. However, there are several benefits to living in the dorms. First and foremost, the costs in tuition are all you pay. There are no added expenses for utilities such as water, gas, and electric. The vast majority of US universities and colleges also provide cable and high-speed internet access as well.


Another major expense avoided through dorm life is food. Included in the cost of room and board are three hot meals a day, which means students are not only ensured of eating enough to have the energy to focus on coursework, but they will not go without or have to live on ramen noodles just to get by.


Other factors to consider are transportation and furniture. Living in the dorms most often means no need for a vehicle as students are on campus and have access to school transportation. Additionally, students do not have to fill an entire apartment with furniture or worry about common areas in a dorm. Some universities are even introducing dorms which are fully furnished.


The Case for Off-Campus Living

On the other side of the aisle is the concept of living off campus. To a certain degree, it offers financial benefits to students. There is the potential to share rent with other students, as well as splitting all utilities to help lower overall costs. Most commercial enterprises right around college campuses offer student discounts, which allow off-campus kids to save on meals out or entertainment such as movies at the theater.


Perhaps the primary benefit of living off campus is the ability to enjoy greater freedoms. Dormitories have a lot of strict guidelines, and typically living in any building considered on campus requires residents to follow strict rules. Living off campus allows students to experience life on their own for the first time, and learn at their own pace how to operate in the real world.


Choosing between these two options is not an easy one. Living on campus comes with a lot of protections for the individual student, but it can also shelter them from learning how to responsibly plan their spending and stretch every dollar they have. In this way, many off-campus students grow up with a better understanding of how to be financially stable.

When making financial decisions such as these it may help to contact your financial advisor for help. Contact Hughes Warren for help developing your money saving strategy with your college student today.