Most top colleges have high off-campus housing costs

Posted on September 17th, 2016

As we’ve written before, there’s more to rising college expenses than just increasing tuition costs–off-campus housing costs are also skyrocketing, adding to students’ financial burdens even more and forcing them to take on more student debt.

And unfortunately, attending a higher-ranked college often means paying more for housing, a new study has found.

Elite colleges with the highest rental costs

A recent analysis by Zillow found that 80% of the top 35 national universities named on U.S News & World Report’s Best Colleges of 2017 are located in expensive rental markets.

Topping the list in terms of median off-campus housing prices are Stanford University, Princeton University and University of California, Berkeley.

Students in Stanford-Palo Alto., Calif. can expect to pay $6,139 for rent–nearly five times the national median.

Stanford University high off-campus rental costs

Off-campus housing near Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA is among the most expensive in the country, with rents about five times the national average. [By Jawed Karim. (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]

Median rents near Princeton are $4,529, while students living off-campus near Berkeley can expect to spend $3,534 per month on housing.

And several of the top 35 colleges are located in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C., where the median rent is higher than the nation as a whole.

Unfortunately for students considering colleges in these pricey rental markets, renting costs are expected to rise over time, which could add significantly to their college costs.

Students attending college in the Bay Area or the greater Los Angeles region can expect to see their costs rise the most over time, Zillow found. Rental expenses are expected to rise by more than 6% over the coming year in these areas.

Consider housing costs when choosing a college

Fortunately, there are a few top-ranked colleges located in more affordable housing markets.

The University of Notre Dame, Washington University in St. Louis, our nearby University of Rochester and Wake Forest University have the lowest off-campus housing costs of all colleges in the top 35, each coming at a median of under $1,000 per month for rental costs.

Notre Dame’s off-campus housing is particularly cheap, coming in at $723, close to half of the national median rent.

As Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow chief marketing officer, advised parents,

As students and their parents are filling out applications this fall and are crunching the numbers on financial aid and student loans, they should also factor in cost of housing.

Looking at both on-and off-campus housing prices, and thinking through whether they’ll likely live with roommates or alone will help them gauge an accurate picture of the student loans and financial aid they will need in order to obtain their degree.

While attending a top-ranked university can certainly be tempting, it’s important to understand all of the costs associated with your decision–including how much costs will rise over time.

Manage college costs to minimize student debt

As we’ve written before, you don’t have to attend a top-ranked college to be successful.

And if you take out a significant amount of student debt to afford an expensive college, you may end up putting yourself in a worse position than if you had attended a lower-ranked but more affordable college from the start.

We help families and students understand all of their college costs, including tuition, housing and other fees, and sort through all of their options to maximize their financial aid packages and make college more affordable.

If you’d like to learn how we can help you manage your college costs, call us at 1-888-234-3907 or send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Category: College Costs

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