The Breakdown: Is Living on Campus Cheaper Than an Apartment

5 min read Choosing to live on or off-campus can be a difficult problem when attending a college or university for the first time. This process involves the parents, students, and sometimes both – for a student like me, I was on my own.

Radford Dorm Room

Photo Credit: (Jeff Lepore) Dylan Lepore and his roommate in their freshman dorm room.

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By: Dylan Lepore | dlepore1@radford.edu

Choosing to live on or off-campus can be a difficult problem when attending a college or university for the first time. This process involves the parents, students, and sometimes both – for a student like me, I was on my own.

A breakdown of actual numbers seems hard to come by as colleges and universities have fluctuating fees each year. Nobody honestly can know precisely how much they have to pay until they get slipped the bill, which is what still happens to me every single year.

This article will break down the cost of living both on and off-campus at Radford University, including quotes from students of all classes, a poll featuring more than 300 votes, and why money may not be the only factor.

The Breakdown

Numbers
Photo Credit: (Antoine Dautry on Unsplash) Pencil on system of equations.

It’s worth noting what the cost of rooming under Radford University is in the 2019-2020 school year: Traditional Room (Muse) is $4,770, Standard Phase I Room is $5,387, and Standard Phase II Room is $5,548. For the 2019-2020 school year, my dorm at Radford University cost $5,548 for their Standard Double Phase II with the Flex Meal Plan-On Campus costing $4,225 for a total room and board fee of $9,773.

In contrast, for the 2017-2018 school year, my dorm at Radford University cost $5,511 for their Standard Double Phase I with the Flex Meal Plan-On Campus costing $3,982 for a total room and board fee of $9,493.

Therefore, the cost of my room and board went up 2.86 percent or $280 from 2017 to 2020.

Radford junior Elizabeth Jolly, who lives in an off-campus apartment, says she pays $400 for rent and utilities plus $36 for internet per month for a total of $5,232 a year. Food and groceries cost her $50 to $20 per week for about an average of $1,680 a year—a total of $6,912.

That is a difference of $2,861 from the 2019-2020 cost of room and board at Radford.

It’s worth noting what the cost of rooming under Radford University is in the 2019-2020 school year: Traditional Room (Muse) is $4,770, Standard Phase I Room is $5,387, and Standard Phase II Room is $5,548. 

The cost of rooming in a university-owned and operated apartment per year depends on the number of rooms. One-bedroom is $7,500, two bedrooms are $7,140, two bedrooms with laundry are $7,500, three bedrooms are $6,780, three bedrooms with laundry are $7,140, four bedrooms are $6,420, four bedrooms with laundry are $6,780, five bedrooms are $6,060, and five bedrooms with laundry are $6,420.

What Radford’s Student Body Thinks

Thinking
Photo Credit: (Jason Strull on Unsplash) “You’re not creating if your not first enveloped with passion for your work.”

“It sounds cheaper to live off-campus, but I think it’s roughly the same. You’re paying rent/bills even during the summer when you’re not here too. And $300 is low for rent. Not everyone is lucky enough to get a lease that cheap.”Using data collected over five days from 384 Radford University students using a poll in four Radford University Class Facebook groups: 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, we can see what students favor the most in terms of what is cheaper: a dorm or an off-campus apartment.

Radford University Class of 2020 results show 133 votes for “An off-campus apartment is cheaper,” nine votes for “Too close to call,” and one vote for “A dorm is cheaper.”

Radford senior Loraine Brown said, “I didn’t live on campus here [at Radford University], but I did at [George Mason University], but the difference in privacy and rules is worth the price to me to live off-campus.”

Radford University Class of 2021 results show 112 votes for “An off-campus apartment is cheaper,” four votes for “Too close to call,” and one vote for “A dorm is cheaper.”

Radford junior Emma Roberts said, “I personally feel that off-campus is cheaper because I am paying $5,548 for much less for only 9 months for a dorm, but I am going to be paying $5,400 for a lot more for 12 months in an apartment. Granted utilities, but if you manage them well enough, they shouldn’t be that bad.”

Radford University Class of 2022 results show 58 votes for “An off-campus apartment is cheaper,” five votes for “Too close to call,” and zero votes for “A dorm is cheaper.”

Radford senior Justina Wallen, who voted it’s too close to call, said,” Rent itself may be cheaper but then you have to think about utilities, heat, WiFi, groceries, renter’s insurance, all the stuff to put in the apartment/house, etc… off the jump, it sounds cheaper to live off-campus, but I think it’s roughly the same. You’re paying rent/bills even during the summer when you’re not here too. And $300 is low for rent. Not everyone is lucky enough to get a lease that cheap.”

Radford University Class of 2023 results show 38 votes for “A dorm is cheaper,” 16 votes for “An off-campus apartment is cheaper,” and three votes for “Too close to call.”

Radford freshman Jessica Barlow, who voted that a dorm is cheaper, said that an off-campus apartment seems $1,000 to $2,000 more expensive.

More Than Just Simply Numbers

Stuff
Photo Credit: (Luca Laurence on Unsplash) A lot of stuff.

So, the question still stands, which is cheaper: a dorm or an off-campus apartment? The unfortunate answer is that it depends. You can’t measure value, and everyone is different.Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”

While numbers are helpful, it comes down to value cost. 

What does a student value in a place of living, what do their parents’ value, what kind of classes is the student taking, are they working on or off-campus, and is the student more social or do they prefer to keep to themselves.

Radford junior Alexis Sears said, “I can have my dogs with me, I can take a bubble bath, and I can light a candle and have a glass of wine with my dinner because none of that is against any rule that an adult is giving another adult. It’s 100% worth not to be under the school’s rules and ridiculous prices, even if off-campus was more expensive.”

I have two jobs on campus, run my own business, and am a full-time student. I value being on-campus because I am right where I need to be. I am easily fed, and getting to class or work is a breeze.

Benjamin Franklin once said: “Remember that Time Is Money.”

I know what I value, what works for me, and I know who I am, and my needs.

So, the question still stands, which is cheaper: a dorm or an off-campus apartment? The unfortunate answer is that it depends. You can’t measure value, and everyone is different.

While I can breakdown costs for days, it’s up to the student to figure what they value; however, never forgot the true cost of what you are paying for, as unfortunate as it may be for many, money still matters.

Photo Credit: (Jeff Lepore) Dylan Lepore and his roommate in their freshman dorm room.