During my entire time in college this is a question that would come up constantly. “Is it cheaper to live on campus, or find an apartment off campus?” This can be a complicated question, so let’s dive a little deeper and figure out what situation might be best for your situation.
Looking at the University of Maine campus in Orono the average student living in a double room with a roommate can expect to pay almost $6000 for a school year to live on campus, and this is counting a meal plan! Along with that cost, you will be expected to leave the dorm during all major breaks (Winter and Spring) because the campus shuts down during those times. If we say that the school year is about 8 months this means that the monthly payment here is about $750 for a double room with a roommate. If you want a single or another more spacious room, the price increases up to almost $9000 if you want to live in a double room without a roommate- almost $1,125 a month!
Adding a meal plan to that, the average combination for a first year student would be a double room with a roommate and the unlimited meal plan. This meal plan costs almost $5,500 for a school year ($680 per month). This would cost the student $11,500 to live on campus for one school year, or almost $1500 a month for housing and food. Not too bad! The other benefits to this are that you are close to all your classes and other school accommodations. This means you wouldn’t have to keep and maintain a car along with a parking pass, and you also wouldn’t have to spend time grocery shopping or cooking. The laundry on campus does cost money, but your room fee comes with $25 of laundry funds per semester and it is possible that this will be enough, but you may need to add more funds at some point. The last down side to on campus living is that it is likely that you would be using dorm bathrooms and showers. There are not many dorm rooms on campus that have private bathrooms, so bring your shower shoes!
For off campus living things get a little more complicated because of the wide variety of choices. There are a lot of options for living off campus but close to the university, such as the apartment complexes, but many people opt for an apartment owned by a landlord. The average Two room one Bath apartment in the area goes for around $1000 a month which will include water and heating in most cases. So you will most likely be paying for electricity, and definitely for internet/ cable. If you are splitting these costs with one roommate- and most apartments will limit how many roommates can be in their apartments for safety reasons ( you cant fit 6 people into a 2 room apartment to save money!)- the rent would be $500, and the average electricity bill will be around $25 when split. Internet costs vary, but the general cost will be around $30 when split between roommates. Total apartment costs add up to $555 at this point, a $200 saving per month from on campus. The costs of a car depend on how far from campus you are, but a parking pass for a year will cost around $50.
When is comes to food cost, there is a lot of potential to save money and many college students are tempted to save a lot of costs here ( the ramen diet) but it is important to have a healthy diet. Assuming that you won’t subsist on ramen and water, I will budget $250 a month for food costs. This is $430 of savings per month compared to the unlimited meal plan on campus, but what you make up for in costs you lose in convenience. Meaning that you will have to shop for and prepare all of your meals, which can take up a lot more time than a student would like. With these costs laid out you would be living off campus for $805 a month or almost $6500 for a school year. A savings of $5000 per year, but we should also keep in mind that many leases don’t only last for the school months. While some may like the ability to stay around campus during the winter and spring breaks, many forget that this will also include summer as well- when school is not in session. Breaking a lease made with a landlord can have implications, so we will assume that you adhere to your 12 month lease (whether you stay at your apartment during the summer or not), adding 4 months of payments to this calculation and $2000 more dollars. Meaning that actual savings for a year of off-campus living at $3000.
There are many ways to cut costs both on campus and off, and I have left the link to the UMaine housing cost below so you can figure that out further. However, weighing the costs and benefits of on or off-campus living is ultimately up to you!