On-campus Vs off-campus Housing ? Which is Better?

 Living on campus

In most institutions, only first-year students choose to live on campus. It is a more convenient and safer way than having to commute to and from the campus. It also allows them to adjust to college life as they learn more about the campus lifestyle, start to gain a sense of independence and make friends with other students from various backgrounds.

The cost of living on-campus in any student’s residence varies with every institution and region, which is why some students cannot live there even if they wanted to. For example, the accommodation cost at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario is over $14,500 per year, and it covers meals, a double room, and other related charges. On the other hand, the University of Winnipeg charges slightly over $9,500 for the same amenities and meals during fall and winter learning sessions, which is in the same range as the University of Manitoba’s housing fees.

 How does it work?

The learning institutions in Canada usually give students who want to live on campus two options. They can pay the whole fees at the beginning of the year or pay the relevant portions every semester they are in school. Meal plans are often part of the residence deal and can cost at least $4000 per year. The dorm-style residence offered by the institutions also comes with furnishings, so students don’t have to worry about purchasing their furniture. Students should determine whether the meal plans included in the package are transferrable. If they are, the students stand to save a lot of money the following year, but if not, they will have to use all the food credits before they elapse. Some universities give students the option of continuing to use their meal credits even if they move out of campus residence the following year. The gift cards they give can only be used to buy food from the campus vendors.

On-campus pros:

Living on-campus has the following advantages:

  • The fees cover all utilities and amenities, which takes away the need to pay monthly bills
  • It’s easier to move to and from the classes without additional commuting fees
  • Compulsory meal plans take away the need for grocery shopping
  • Tax exemptions for all items bought through the meal plan
  • Rollover meal plans reduce expenses for students even if they choose out-of-campus living
  • Availability of basic furniture

On-campus cons:

  • The plans don’t usually leave room for frugality as they force students to abide by them or forfeit and lose their money
  • The meal plan fees may exceed what a single student spends in a semester or year
  • Some institutions don’t have transferrable meal plans, which leads to loss of money
  • Accommodation spaces may be too confined

 Living off-campus

Most students usually choose to live off-campus after the first year, unless in cases where there isn’t enough room to accommodate the first-year students. The off-campus option usually comes with more responsibilities including paying utility bills, finding roommates to share the costs with and searching for a safe place within the same town as the university. Students also have to take care of their meals, which involves buying groceries. The costs accrued in a year will depend on the location of the university. For instance, off-campus living in Toronto will cost more than in Quebec.

How does it work?

The most convenient option is for students to lease an apartment for at least a year with roommates. Since the success of such an arrangement depends on the roommates a student chooses, starting the search a few months before the move is essential. Doing the research early also helps with the acquisition of the residentials closer to the campus. As part of the preparation, students should have enough money to cater to application fees, including last and first month’s rent. Most landlords who own these properties also ask for security deposits and amenities fees, like parking where applicable. Given the high demand such apartments have, their prices may be slightly higher. Therefore, first-time renters should do enough research to determine the average rental costs to avoid overpaying. Some tips students can use are:

  • Reading the lease carefully to understand what every clause means, especially when it is a one-year lease
  • Subletting the apartment to reduce costs, especially during summer or at any other time they are not in school
  • Getting written consent from landlords before subletting, especially when it is not indicated in the lease. Some landlords don’t allow such practices and may terminate your agreement if they find out.
  • Getting a shorter lease, possibly 8 months instead of 1 year, to cover the school duration only

Off-campus pros:

  • Sharing utility and grocery costs can help reduce costs
  • Such apartments may have more room than in-campus dorms
  • Spending on what you can eat only can save money

 Off-campus cons:

  • Monthly bills may be expensive
  • Students must buy furniture
  • Lack of dedicated security personnel like the ones on campus
  • Commuting costs can add to the already expensive living
  • If the student does not sublet in the summer, they pay rent for space they are not using