Exploring college living options with your students

How to select campus housing may come up in one of your discussions with your students.  It would seem that there are only two choices of where to live during college life, and the final decision should be an easy one, right? Actually, there are several things to consider you’re your students are making this choice. The wrong choice could affect your their credit rating, stress level and their lives. The right choice could make college life much easier and enjoyable.

Staying home and commuting

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the nationwide average for room and board at all institutions is more than $11,000 a year. If one of your student’s college choice is close enough that commuting makes sense, think of the money (and student debt) that will save over four years.

Renting a place off-campus

There are many positive factors for living off-campus if the college allows freshmen to do that. Your student will be establishing a credit record, they will feel more independent and they will be able to choose a location.

However, the parent may need to co-sign the lease. In addition, the student will need to budget not only for rent but for utilities, internet, trash removal and food.  They would want to make sure the neighborhood is safe and that’s its within easy reach of campus by bike or public transport (unless the teen is taking a car to college).

Living on-campus

Sometimes there’s no choice to make. Some four-year institutions require first-year students to live on-campus. Advise them it is wise to check into these requirements prior to accepting an admission offer.

Pros: Your teen is in close proximity to classes, the libraries and activities, which means no commute and (hopefully) more time productively spent studying. (A comparison of Kent State University freshmen who lived on campus and who lived off campus from 2012 to 2016 found that those who lived on campus had higher first semester GPAs and were more likely to return to school the next semester than those who lived off-campus.)

Your student will have more opportunities to create close friendships and more flexibility for connecting to faculty. Meal plans promise a more balanced diet, and dorm life is a good way to transition away from living at home.

Cons: Room and board are not cheap – remember, more than $11,000 a year. Rooms may be small, there aren’t any kitchen facilities, bathrooms may be communal, and privacy may not be easily attained. That said, there are other options these days for suites shared by four or five students that do have kitchens.

Greek housing

About 10 percent of college students join sororities or fraternities, according to the North American Interfraternity Conference. And while there are plenty of benefits, they can come with a higher price tag than living in a dorm.

Housing expenses vary widely. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, fraternity members pay $3,200 to $10,000 depending on the chapter. Chapter dues, fee, and meals can rack up on average an additional $1,000 or more a year.

Most chapters require members to live there for a minimum of two years, so expect your student to dedicate at least that much time to their sorority or fraternity. According to Madison Smith, a senior at Indiana University, “Greek housing is for anyone seeking a social environment who knows how to balance work and play.”   This type of information is valuable to your students and their families should questions on the topic come up.

Joanne Leone is an advisor and speaker at My College Planning Team free workshops and writes for MCPT’s website. She earned her degree in communications and creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, California.