Housing costs outweigh tuition for college students

FAMU Village is the newest — and most expensive — residence hall on campus.
Photo Submitted by Ariyon Dailey

There’s no question that college can be costly and a heavy expense for those pursuing higher education. But as college costs increase, studies reveal that housing is the biggest single expense for most students attending public schools.

Attending college can be expensive for many reasons including tuition, housing, books and supplies. Other reasons include a surge in demand to attend a university, an increase in financial aid, a lack of state funding, and a need for more faculty members and money to pay them.

The College Board for the 2018-2019 Average Estimated Budget Study shows that room and board expenses for in-state two-year and four-year colleges both outweigh tuition and fee costs.

Students often turn to loans and apply for scholarships to cover the costs of college.

For example, Heaven Williams, a junior social work major at FAMU, applies for loans to cover her housing costs, because financial aid only covers her tuition fees.

“I have to take out a loan each and every semester. I am now currently a junior and I’m about to apply for my next loan,” Williams said.

Williams lived on campus her freshman year and moved off campus the following year. She said she’s roughly spent $6,000 on rent at an off-campus apartment complex for students.

“When I look online and see the costs of the things the loan is covering, it’s not as important as my living arrangements,” she said.

Another factor students have to consider when paying for room and board cost is food. At FAMU and most public universities, if a student is living on campus, they must apply for a meal plan.

When Williams initially enrolled at FAMU in 2017, the cost of housing was $3,458 and the meal plan was $2,490 per semester.

In total, in-state students living on campus for two semesters in 2017 have spent $11,896 on room and board alone.

Roderick Harris, a junior computer information systems major, moved off-campus last year, but he says the costs of living still takes a toll.

“Living on campus was the most expensive thing about college, I would say. But even with moving off campus, it still cost me the most amount of money,” Harris said.

Harris said he’s spent nearly $5,000 on rent and utilities, but that still didn’t cover the cost of food.

“You also have to think about the cost of groceries too. Like if you don’t know how to cook, you’re gonna eat out, which can cost a lot too,” Harris added.

The cost of room and board is twice the cost of tuition at FAMU, according to this Estimated Fees Chart from 2017.

The costs of college seems to increase year by year, but College Board stated in its study that living expenses are additional costs associated with attending college since young adults have to pay for these things whether they’re in college or not.

“However, a very significant cost of going to college is forgone earnings from the time devoted to school instead of the labor market. Without adequate earnings, many students struggle to meet daily expenses, and non-tuition components of student budgets can easily interfere with student success,” according to a 2018-2019 Average Estimated Undergraduate Budget Study.

Housing costs for all college students will continue to be a hard-hitting but necessary expense that continues to increase.