Where To Live When You're A College Student
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The price of going to college is high and it's getting higher and not just tuition. On many campuses across the country, the cost of room and board is greater than tuition and it's also rising. Reema Khrais of member station WUNC has this report on students who are packing their bags in search of more affordable housing.
REEMA KHRAIS, BYLINE: This summer, sophomore Anna Clemons spent a really long time trying to find an off-campus apartment. She took notes and made lists of pros and cons.
ANNA CLEMONS: They're really expensive here. Like, everywhere we'd go, I'd be like, really, that much a month? Like, 900 bucks a month, like, a thousand and something a month.
KHRAIS: Some of them are more expensive than the dorms at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she's a student. But then, she found one that made sense with her budget.
CLEMONS: We're entering the apartment right now.
KHRAIS: It's simple, looks a tad outdated, lots of beige. Then she leads me to her room, which is big.
CLEMONS: And then, I have, like, a big closet, which is really nice.
KHRAIS: Most of the furniture is from her childhood, and even her mom's childhood, like the dresser. And that's where she keeps the list of everything she buys, down to the $2 shower curtains.
CLEMONS: And I went to the grocery store. That was $51 and 11 cents.
KHRAIS: So how much does she pay for this two-bedroom apartment that she splits with a roommate?
CLEMONS: Four hundred fifteen dollars.
KHRAIS: A month. In total, she saves about a thousand dollars a year by living off campus. And if she keeps to her budget, she says she could save hundreds more by packing peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and making salads for dinner. Meanwhile, on UNC's campus...
ALLAN BLATTNER: Yeah, these four buildings that are on the corners here are some of our newer buildings, and they're called the Mannings.
KHRAIS: Allan Blattner is in charge of housing at UNC. On campuses like this across the nation, price tags for room and board have gone up by about 25 percent over the last decade - that's adjusting for inflation. Blattner says it's because utilities are more expensive. You also need money to make sure students don't trip on broken stairwells or get stuck in elevators.
BLATTNER: With some of the age of some of our buildings - we have a building that was built in, you know, 1793 that's still an active residence hall. Obviously, that takes, you know, some money to keep moving.
KHRAIS: The total cost of living and eating at this public university is about $11,000 a year. Compare that to the University of California, Berkeley, where board and room costs more than tuition at around $14,000. At The New School in New York City, it can be more than 20 grand. At UNC Chapel Hill, more than 700 campus rooms are empty right now, so Blattner and others got creative. They're converting two dorm buildings this year into conference spaces.
BLATTNER: We really wanted to turn kind of - turn lemons into lemonade a little bit and see if we can't turn that into a positive thing.
KHRAIS: More students are gravitating toward flashier, off-campus places built just for them. And in some markets, they cost as much as dorms. Randy Shearin is editor of a magazine called Student Housing Business.
RANDY SHEARIN: In the higher end student housing, you'll see everything from granite countertops to resort-style swimming pools. I've seen putting greens. I've seen batting cages.
KHRAIS: But for some students, like Andrea Zuniga, all of those swanky features don't beat the simple convenience of living on campus.
ANDREA ZUNIGA: The bathrooms are very tiny, which just doesn't make sense to me. That's the only complaint I actually have.
KHRAIS: Zuniga's a senior here on a full-ride scholarship. She lives in an apartment-style suite on campus that she shares with three of her best friends. The cost - about $800 a month each. She says off campus she could've paid $500.
ZUNIGA: I know. I would've saved a whole bunch of money, like, altogether. But I just - I think my life has been a lot about money.
KHRAIS: Zuniga says she likes being able to take a quick bus to the library or walk to the cafeteria or, on this night, take a Zumba class with her roommates. For NPR News, I'm Reema Khrais.
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