Tuition and fees aren't the only college costs families are finding hard to swallow these days. Room and board is also on the rise--now nearing $16,000 a year at some colleges. A survey of the most expensive college dorms found that students attending The New School's Eugene Lang College in New York City can expect to pay more than any other college students in the nation for standard-option housing and a meal plan, at $15,990 per year.
Rounding out the top five were Cooper Union in New York City, at $15,275; Suffolk University in Boston, at $14,544; the University of California at Berkeley, at $14,384; and the New York Institute of Technology at Manhattan, at $14,290. By contrast, the average college room and board costs for 2009-2010 were $8,193 at public four-year schools and $9,363 for private colleges. Students who want extras can expect to pay a lot more--to get an idea of how much, check out the New York Times' run-through of a few of the swankiest college living arrangements that have debuted recently on three campuses.
The list of the top 20 was largely dominated by schools in cities with high costs of living, where housing costs of $12,000 to $16,000 per year might not seem all that unreasonable. However, when you consider the fact that these costs are for a standard double room without any extravagant extras, students may still want to see if they can get a better deal living off-campus. It's possible to pay a comparable price to on-campus room and board for your own bedroom in many locations, and considering college students' general ingenuity when it comes to apartment penny-pinching and packing people into houses and apartments, living off-campus could very well be a cheaper option than the dorms, regardless of where you attend college.
However, living off-campus isn't always the best or cheapest option, even if the hefty price tag for a shared room and mediocre dorm food offends your sensibilities. Before you decide where to live (if you're given that option--some colleges require students to live on-campus all four years), come up with a sample budget, taking into account realistic costs for housing, food, maintenance, and commuting to and from campus. For example, don't budget for walking 20 blocks each way in the winter or eating nothing but ramen and leftover cookies you snag from your department's faculty meetings, unless that's really how you intend to live. Think about what you're giving up, as well--easy trips to class, free cleaning services, and a close sense of campus community. If you're not saving much by living off-campus, perhaps those things will encourage you to stay.
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