At some colleges, housing costs average more than tuition

'The student housing market has grown like a weed over the last 25 years,' expert says

As college room and board costs rise, more students are moving off campus to save money, Reema Khrais reports for NPR.

Housing prices grew about 20% at public and 17% at private institutions in the past five years, according to College Board, which tracks the data. By comparison, tuition rose 21% at public and 13% at private institutions in the same period.

At a public four-year college, room and board costs on average $9,804 compared with the average in-state tuition of $9,139, College Board data show. At the University of California-Berkley, room and board is more than tuition, at about $14,000.

This has pushed some students to move off campus in search of savings, Khrais writes.

Could a dorm shortage be forcing students into unsafe apartments?

Electricity, water, and staff salary costs have all increased—leading to an increase in campus housing costs too, says Allan Blattner, director of housing and residential education at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

UNC-Chapel Hill requires first-years to live on campus to foster  academic success and community building. Many elect to do so. In the past several years, the rate of sophomores living on campus dropped from 70% to 63%.

This semester, more than 700 dorm rooms sit empty, so officials reallocated spaces and temporarily converted two housing buildings into conference areas.

An expanding market

"The student housing market has grown like a weed over the last 25 years," says Randy Shearin, editor of Student Housing Business magazine.

While some of the "private dorms" compete for students with luxury perks and are more expensive than living on campus—others are less expensive.

One UNC-Chapel Hill student says she will save at least $1,000 by living off-campus—possibly more if she sticks to her meal budget.

But others decide to live on campus anyway, despite a higher cost. UNC-Chapel Hill senior Andrea Zuniga and her three friends elected to move into a suite-style dorm and pay about $300 more than had they lived off campus.

The convenience of being on campus and not having to buy furniture was worth it, she says. Plus, her merit- and need-based scholarship takes care of her housing costs (Khrais, NPR, 9/15).

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