Saving money, learning life lessons and the ability to leave school at school; these are all benefits of leaving the dorms behind and finding a place of your own. The debate of living on or off campus depends on the needs of each individual student, but I want to look at why living off campus has its benefits.
Living off campus teaches students responsibility and money management. On top of those important life skills, it generally tends to be cheaper than living in the dorms at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Personally, I’ve lived both on and off campus. While I was going to another college, before I transferred to UNL, I lived in apartment and dorm style on-campus housing for three semesters. Since transferring to UNL a year ago, I’ve lived off campus, both in a duplex and an apartment with roommates. After the experience of both, I’ve found happiness living without resident assistants and community bathrooms.
When looking at prices of living off campus, Lincoln offers some of the best prices around the United States, according to the UNL Office of Graduate Studies website. The average rent of two bedroom apartments range from $625-$750. Nebraska has “an overall cost of living that ranks below the national average in all major categories.” So, not just the cost of rent, but the cost of groceries, utilities and transportation are lower.
Housing costs differ depending on the location of on campus housing a student is placed in, but it’s still higher than the average of rent in Lincoln. Living in a double room in Abel, Harper, Sandoz, Schramm or Smith with a seven-day meal comes to $10,670 per semester, according to University Housing’s billing rates. Considering we spend roughly nine months in the dorms, that comes out to $1,186 per month for food and living.
If you look at the average rent of a two-bedroom apartment, the cost difference is obvious. The utilities (electricity, gas, wifi) for my apartment add to about $90 for my roommate and me each month. Prices of food depend on each person’s preference of name brand vs. off brand when it comes to groceries. Personally, I spend $150-200 a month on food for myself, including those random trips to Cane’s or birthday suppers with friends.
For all halls, besides Love Memorial, apartment style and Husker Hall, the meal plan is figured into the cost of living. When charging for meal plans in apartment style living/Husker Hall, the plans are $4,000 per semester for Monday through Friday and $4,085 for Monday through Sunday. Using these prices, that’s almost $450 for food each month. That’s more than double what I spend on groceries each month. Taking these factors into account, you could be looking at a $770+ difference between off campus and living in one of the apartment style dorms or Husker Hall for one month.
But what about our social lives? I was always told that I wouldn’t get the full college experience if I didn’t live on campus. Since I lived too far away from college to make commuting an option, off campus wasn’t a choice for me. Although I do believe that living off campus is a great experience, making students live on campus their freshman year has its benefits. Once we get past that freshman year of college awkwardness and have created our own social groups, then there’s a joy in moving out on your own.
One of the biggest positives of living off campus, for me, has been the ability to leave my school stress at school. I put in a lot of work on campus, and I spend a lot of my day there. When I leave Love Library at any given hour of the night (or morning, for that matter), I’m able to get in my car and make that ten-minute drive to distance myself from whatever I’ve been doing most of the day. I’m not passing posters encouraging me to study and tips on how to, nor can I hear the sound of college students talking, laughing and whatever else we do at all times of the night. I’m able to go to my apartment, watch “Friends” and leave my stress on campus until the next morning.
Living off campus also gives students a sense of responsibility. Paying rent and utilities on time and developing a relationship with the landlord helps us with any future work we do with our living situations. It also builds credit to pay rent and have utilities put in your name. Since I’ve lived off campus, I’ve had a much better sense of money management than when I lived on campus.
Some suggestions for students looking into living off campus are to do your research on the landlord, the company that owns the rental, and the area of town you’ll be living in. Doing research on landlords can help you find the most trustworthy person to pay your rent to. Low prices can be a draw to areas of town with higher crime rates, but research will help someone avoid living somewhere they may feel unsafe.
Saving in advance is helpful, as most places will require security deposits, and there are extra costs for setup of utilities the first month. It’s also helpful to look in advance. In May, a lot of off campus housing opportunities are full because students have already put their security deposit in so they can move out when they’re done at the dorms or their other .
All of this is to say off campus housing may require a little more work to, but it’s well worth it. Students will have learned life skills like money management, how to find the best places to live, and all of the other responsibilities that living on your own brings.