Financial Pros and Cons of Living On-Campus vs. Off-Campus Housing

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The decision to enter into a co-living situation is a hugely important decision that people should take with a lot of consideration; Variations in the coliving experience can be huge, and of differing overall outcome, most good, but some bad. For those of you in college, it’s not only important to consider potential roommates, but the pros and cons associated with on-campus vs. off-campus housing. In a previous post, we’ve given you tips on how to save money on college housing. In the same breath, we’ve alluded to the fact that living off campus is often a cheaper option than on-campus housing.

College courses aren’t cheap, but we’re firm believers that college housing shouldn’t break the bank as well. Homies is here to help help you find the best fit – roommates, neighborhoods, and finances – so we wanted to outline the important financial pros and cons of living in on-campus vs off-campus apartment. We’ve included information from local, Baltimore universities (MICA, Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Towson, Goucher) as reference points.


  • Cheaper. Overall, living in an off-campus apartment tends to be cheaper than living on-campus. Students tend to find larger spaces for cheaper prices; and this is definitely a pro for students who are paying for their own education and associated costs.
  • Room, no board. When analyzing on-campus living costs, you are inevitably looking at Room & Board (a non-negotiable package of a room and an attached meal plan.) Living off-campus, however, lends you the freedom to pay for both separately, often driving down both the individual and combined costs of housing and meals.
  • Financial foundation for future. An often overlooked pro of off-campus living is its impact on a student’s financial future. Renting off-campus sets you up with a rental history, as well as opportunities to build credit by opening utility accounts and paying them on-time every month. If you are planning to rent in the future, having a positive rental reference is a pro over other students just coming out of college although you may still need a cosigner, both during college and in the initial stages after graduation.


  • Not covered in student loans. One downside to off-campus living is that the cost isn’t readily covered in any financial aid received. Some students take out personal loans or opt to work an extra job to afford housing costs. Although not ideal in the short term, the extra responsibility to afford this option can prove useful in the future.
  • Transportation costs? Many campuses have on-campus transportation systems, but this accessibility doesn’t always extend to off-campus areas. This causes many off-campus students to need a car (and incur associated costs.) If your campus isn’t within a walkable distance from your off-campus housing, it’s important to weigh these additional costs when making a decision.
  • Bills. Off-campus housing also requires renters to manage their own utility bills – electric, cable, etc. Although they can be split between roommates, these costs are not lumped in with a “Room & Board” bill. Additionally, off-campus renters may be responsible to take on costs of repairs, if not spelled out in a lease by your landlord.
Johns Hopkins University MICA Loyola University – Baltimore Towson University Goucher College
On-campus Room & Board $15,410 $12,860    $14,150 $12,184 $12,670
Housing $8,912 $9,680 $10,750 $6,984 $7,500
Meals $6,498 $3,180 $4,080 $5,560 $6,490
Off-campus Room & Board combined $10,552 $10,470 $7,920 $12,184 $8,500

Data via, updated Sept 2018.

At the end of the day, it’s important to assess your financial situation in college – financial aid, additional income, parental contributions. These contextual considerations will help you make a decision about whether on-campus or off-campus living is better for you and your finances. If off campus apartments make sense for you, be sure to download Homies to find rooms and roommates in your desired neighborhood and target budget range.

Student in Baltimore? Read more about how to find to Find the Perfect Roommate at Johns Hopkins and Towson University.

Need help decorating your new digs on a budget? We’ve got 7 Tips for Decorating Your Dream Apartment on a Budget.

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