The cost difference between living on- and off-campus in the 48 biggest college towns in America, ranked

Jordan Silverman/Getty ImagesIs it cheaper to live on campus or off campus during college?

  • With the cost of college already at an all-time high, is it more affordable to live on campus or off campus?
  • Trulia recently took a look at how much it costs to live on campus and off campus in 48 of America’s biggest college towns.
  • In more than half of the places, it was either the same price or cheaper to live off campus, with an average savings of $US219 a month – but there are a few caveats.

The cost of college has already reached an all-time high – and while many worry about the price tag of tuition, they often overlook the expense of a place to live.

But what’s more affordable – the dorm room on campus or an apartment off campus? Well, that answer depends on which college you attend and which college town you’re living in.

Trulia recently took a look at how much it costs to live on campus and off campus in 48 of America’s biggest college towns. To determine this list, Trulia chose US Census-defined places of at least 45,000 people, 20% of which were enrolled in college or graduate school.

Consulting the website of the largest college or university in each place, the site then calculated on-campus housing costs for a full nine-month academic year based on monthly or per-semester rates, excluding meal plans where possible.

Trulia then compared on-campus monthly housing costs to the median estimated monthly cost of a two-bedroom home in a 12-month rental in each place, assuming the cost was split in half between two roommates and divided over nine months to match the academic year.

In more than half of the places, it was either the same price or cheaper to live off campus, with an average savings of $US219 a month for those with a roommate. However, eight of these places include meal plans in the on-campus housing costs – if removed, that brings the average savings down to $US146 a month. And, most utilities aren’t included in off-campus rentals, which could lessen the savings once factored in.

For the 20 places where on-campus housing was more affordable, students would save an average of $US221 a month. Note that none of these included a meal plan.

Below, see how much it costs to live on- and off-campus in America’s biggest college towns. Starred on-campus monthly housing costs indicate that a meal plan was included in the estimate.

48. Kansas State University — Manhattan, Kansas

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US667

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US667

Cost difference: $US0

47. University of Wisconsin-Madison — Madison, Wisconsin


Off-campus median monthly rent:$US865

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US866*

Cost difference: $US1

* includes meal plan

46. California State University Chico — Chico, California

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US860

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US868

Cost difference: $US8

45. University of Kansas — Lawrence, Kansas

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US694

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US676

Cost difference: $US18

44. University of Iowa — Iowa City, Iowa

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US753

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US771

Cost difference: $US18

43. Oregon State University — Corvallis, Oregon


Off-campus median monthly rent:$US967

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US988

Cost difference: $US21

42. University of Arkansas — Fayetteville, Arkansas

Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US693

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US670

Cost difference: $US23

41. Liberty University — Lynchburg, Virginia

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US535

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US511

Cost difference: $US24

40. University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,193

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,222*

Cost difference: $US29

* includes meal plan

39. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill, North Carolina


Off-campus median monthly rent:$US873

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US907

Cost difference: $US34

38. Arizona State University — Tempe, Arizona

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US825

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US861

Cost difference: $US36

37. Indiana University, Bloomington — Bloomington, Indiana

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US733

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US774

Cost difference: $US41

36. University of Florida — Gainesville, Florida

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US641

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US687

Cost difference: $US46

35. Excelsior College — Albany, New York

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US923

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US976

Cost difference: $US53

34. Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jannis Tobias Werner/Shutterstock

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,787

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,733

Cost difference: $US54

33. Western Michigan University — Kalamazoo, Michigan

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US665

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US581

Cost difference: $US84

32. Western Kentucky University — Bowling Green, Kentucky

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US585

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US498

Cost difference: $US87

31. Western Washington University — Bellingham, Washington

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US991

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US884

Cost difference: $US107

30. Auburn University — Auburn, Alabama

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US689

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US798

Cost difference: $US109

29. Texas A&M University — College Station, Texas

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US760

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US875

Cost difference: $US115

28. University of North Dakota — Grand Forks, North Dakota

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US728

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US600

Cost difference: $US128

27. University of Missouri — Columbia, Missouri


Off-campus median monthly rent:$US603

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US736

Cost difference: $US133

26. East Carolina University — Greenville, North Carolina

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US479

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US613

Cost difference: $US134

25. University of Georgia — Athens, Georgia

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US630

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US778

Cost difference: $US148

24. Texas State University — San Marcos, Texas

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US825

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US978

Cost difference: $US153

23. Iowa State University —Ames, Iowa

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US711

On-campus monthly housing cost: $US528

Cost difference: $US183

22. University of Alabama — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US741

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US556

Cost difference: $US185

21. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse — La Crosse, Wisconsin

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US633

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US425

Cost difference: $US208

20. Towson University — Towson, Maryland

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,054

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US807

Cost difference: $US247

19. Brigham Young University — Provo, Utah

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US693

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US417

Cost difference: $US276

18. Florida State University — Tallahassee, Florida

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US593

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US875

Cost difference: $US282

17. University of California Santa Cruz — Santa Cruz, California

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,955

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,670

Cost difference: $US285

16. Rutgers University — New Brunswick, New Jersey

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,173

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US860

Cost difference: $US313

15. Oklahoma State University — Stillwater, Oklahoma

Ken Wolter/Shutterstock

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US560

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US876

Cost difference: $US316

14. Illinois State University — Normal, Illinois

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US597

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US921

Cost difference: $US324

13. University of North Texas — Denton, Texas

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US922

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US567

Cost difference: $US355

12. University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US2,263

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,861

Cost difference: $US402

11. University of California, Davis — Davis, California

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,229

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,633*

Cost difference: $US404

* includes meal plan

10. Northern Arizona University — Flagstaff, Arizona

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,027

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US620

Cost difference: $US407

9. University of Colorado, Boulder — Boulder, Colorado

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,296

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US888

Cost difference: $US408

8. Colorado State University — Fort Collins, Colorado

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,026

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,444*

Cost difference: $US418

* includes meal plan

7. University of South Carolina — Columbia, South Carolina

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Off-campus median monthly rent:$US551

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US975

Cost difference: $US424

6. James Madison University — Harrisonburg, Virginia

By ThePhotosite/Shutterstock

Off-campus median monthly rent: $US659

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,121*

Cost difference: $US462

* includes meal plan

5. Michigan State University — Lansing and East Lansing, Michigan

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US620

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,141

Cost difference: $US521

4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — Champaign, Illinois

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US671

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,218*

Cost difference: $US547

* includes meal plan

3. California Polytechnic State University — San Luis Obispo, California

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US1,553

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US917

Cost difference: $US636

2. University of Oklahoma — Norman, Oklahoma

Gau Meo/Shutterstock

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US566

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,221*

Cost difference: $US655

* includes meal plan

1. Ball State University — Muncie, Indiana

Off-campus median monthly rent:$US399

On-campus monthly housing cost:$US1,106*

Cost difference: $US707

* includes meal plan

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