The costs of room and board can tack quite a bit onto an already hefty college price tag. Living in a dorm, however, is generally cheaper than renting an apartment or house. The cost of rent at an apartment might be less than the total cost of dorm living, but room and board at a dorm usually covers many more utilities and reduces the costs of regular expenses such as transportation and food.
Rent for apartments and houses rarely covers utility bills, but your payment for living in college dorms always does. College students can get high-quality wireless Internet, cable television, electricity, heat and air conditioning without paying any extra money. Colleges can offer this savings because they're providing these services to a large group of students who are in close proximity to one another, so the school gets a bulk discount and can cover the cost out of students' room and board fees.
Dorm life frequently comes with additional services. Students can sign up for meal plans, which are often less expensive than buying groceries or eating out. Many college residence halls also offer mediation services to roommates in conflict and provide a resident advisor to help students adjust to college life. These services aren't available in an apartment, which means students might have to pay for counseling or mediation if they need it.
Students who live on campus don't usually have to worry about driving to school every day, so they can save money on gas and parking fees. Some schools also offer shuttle services to on-campus students, making it easy for students who live in dorms to get to campus events without having to pay for transportation. "Consumer Reports" reported in 2012 that car ownership can cost between $2,000 and $13,000 a year; students who live in campus can reduce or completely eliminate these costs.
Unlike living in an apartment, students living on campus are governed by housing rules rather than a lease. A student who wants to move to a new dorm might be able to do so and students who return home over the summer won't have to pay for housing during that season. Students who have a lease, however, can't typically break it without paying hefty fees and may have to continue paying their lease even when they're not living in their apartment.
- College Board: Average Published Undergraduate Charges by Sector, 2012-13
- Forbes: Most and Least Expensive College Towns
- Investopedia: College Dorms -- Good Value or Ripoff?
- The California State University: What Are the Housing Options?
- The Catholic University of America Dining Services: Meal Plans
- The New York Times: The Lease -- A Contract With Muscle
- ConsumerReports.org: What That Car Really Costs to Own
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.