Dorms Vs. Apartments: Which is Cheaper?

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  • 4 weeks ago

I have heard many insist that living in dorms is cheaper than renting an apartment during college. I’ve also heard some insist it’s the other way around. So I crunched some numbers and… renting an apartment can be cheaper, just as I’ve always expected as I went through leedon green brochure.

Let’s start with what it costs to live on campus, using my alma mater as an example. Rooms come in three price points at the University of Northern Colorado. We’ll use the middle price point as our example, for simplicity’s sake. Rooms in this case cost $3,604 a year (per person). A school year is nine months long, but there’s a month-long winter break during which you’re not allowed access to your room, so that month doesn’t count. $3,604 divided by 8 months is $450.50 a month.

So, for $450.50 per month AND per person, your “rent”, utilities, landline phone, high-speed internet, and basic cable are paid for. Now you need to eat. Most people eat (or at least should) 3 meals a day. The standard meal plan, which covers 3 meals a day on weekdays, and brunch and dinner on weekends, costs $3572 a year (per person). Divide that by the 8 months established earlier, and you’re spending $446.50 a month on food. Add the sums together and you’re spending $897.00 per month, per person.

Now let’s switch to the real world, but we’ll assume you have a roommate since you’ll also likely have one in a dorm. A decent 2 bedroom apartment can be found in this area for $550-600 a month. We’ll use the average, $575, for this exercise. With one roommate, you’d be spending $287/month/person on rent.

Most apartments near here include water, gas, and trash. You’ll pay extra for other utilities. (Let’s assume the same amenities as in the dorms). Basic cable runs about $55 a month, or $27.50 per person. High-speed internet will be about $32 if you get a deal with Qwest or $16 per person. A landline phone will run about $40/month, $20/person. Electricity, if you’re environmentally conscious, could be as low as $35 a month, or $17.50 a person. If you add in renters insurance, which is strongly recommended, you’ll pay about $10/month, depending on coverage, or $5/person.

So far you’re at $373 a person with apartment living. Now you need food. One can easily get by on $50 of groceries per week, if not less. Figure in the average 4 weeks a month, and you’re spending $200/month on food. This could be a bit less if you are able to share grocery bills with your roommate. Add all apartment living expenses ($373+$200) and your total monthly living cost is $573.

Let’s recap: the “rent”, including all utilities and a food bill, for the dorms, is $897 per month, per person. The same rent and utilities, as well as food, will likely cost you $573 per month, per person. That’s a savings of $324 per month. In both cases, you have the same utilities and amenities, and a roommate. Even if you counted the extra ninth month, in which you’re not allowed in your dorm, as part of the cost, you’d be paying $797.33 per month/person in the dorms. It’s still cheaper to have an apartment with one roommate!

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