Choosing where to live: Freedom versus finance

BY: Audriana Pleas

“Think twice, especially if you had any visions of UAA’s campus lodging reflecting a “Van Wilder” movie.  It is more like the cramped apartment in “Pretty in Pink.””

Students typically have three options available to them when it comes to establishing a home base during their collegiate years.  Those options are staying put at home, getting an apartment or moving on campus.  The University of Alaska, Anchorage offers on campus housing, but is it really worth it?

Campus housing, which includes dormitories, ‘MAC” apartments, and Templewood townhomes, is meant to provide convenient housing for students to help them thrive in a social and academic setting.  Dorms are a good fit for students who live outside of the local area or are from out of state.  But if you do not fall in one of those two categories, you should think twice, especially if you had any visions of UAA’s campus lodging reflecting a “Van Wilder” movie.  It is more like the cramped apartment in “Pretty in Pink.”

Some of us really want to explore all the possibilities campus has to offer and dorms would assist us in doing so.  Students are right in the middle of everything, within walking distance of their home, and are able to use the library and other academic forums more readily than commuter students.

But students should decide where to live based on considerations such as dining availability, sleeping quarters and the rules. Rules such as the expected obligations of a lease when you rent an apartment or a curfew that may possibly be enforced through parents.  One of the most important considerations is whether the student is willing to sacrifice a hit in the bank for their freedom. Campus housing can set students back thousands of dollars per semester, not including tuition.  And students are subjected to repercussions that follow after breaking campus housing rules.

Campus housing offers two options.  You can register for housing on a per semester basis or for the entire academic year that is also based on per semester expenses.  The per semester rates range from $2,800 to over $3,000.  If you plan on an extended stay, the academic plan is the best choice because it is cheaper in the long run.  The per academic year rates range from $2,500 to $2,700.   Don’t forget the meal plan though. The mandatory plan is an additional $1700 to $1900 depending on the living quarters you request.  And the meal plan has limited options on campus such as Subway and Cuddy Hall.  And many students who pay for it do not end up using it. Unfortunately what you do not spend does not roll over into the next semester.

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But before students jump the gun, the choices should be weighed out.  Ask yourself the following questions.  What are the negatives of staying at home?  Is there a lack of independence?  Am I responsible financially?  Am I making new friends and expanding socially?  Don’t be quick to answer the questions, be honest.

The second option is staying with your parents.  The positives of staying at home are being able to save money, although some parents have been known to charge rent.  If the amount you save doesn’t exceed what you would pay to live in an apartment with friends then you are in business.  Staying at home also provides free food.  You may not get free food all the time, but it should be enough to satisfy your hunger when you need a break from being an intellectual. In contrast, parents may still enforce rules that will keep your adult swagger in check.  But a check on your swagger is better than no gas money.

You should help out around the house and chip in if you can, but don’t break the bank.  Most parents understand we are going to college to attempt to fill up the bank.  Moreover, since tuition is always on the rise, every penny you save now can add to the extension of your education.

The third option is staying off campus.  While the advantages of living off campus are the evolution of your social life, the disadvantage is you have to pay for the party.  Rent is due!  Apartments in the surrounding area starts at $600 and go up there from there. And adding in a commute to campus means that rent plus gas equal death to your wallet.

You will also have more independence since apart from what is on the lease, you make your own rules.  That is unless you have a roommate, who will get a say in some of the rules.  Also, if you live off campus you have to buy your own food and you have to think about who may be creeping into the fridge when you are not home.

Living off campus can make it hard to save money, especially if you have a full class schedule and a full time job.  And the sympathy that one might get at home is going to be non-existent with roommates if you cannot meet a financial deadline.  And you have to consider that you won’t have much sympathy either if your roommate drops the ball on paying their rent.  But if you are really looking to learn responsibility, then this is probably your preferred option.

If you plan to stay off campus, pick a roommate wisely. For the frugal who are content with being at home, stay. For those who are willing to pay those prices for the dorms, live it up.