Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Living on or off campus, the economic dilemma for college students

Danielle Augeri/Collegian

Rather than walking back to the dorms at the University of Massachusetts, many upperclassmen crowd the 8 p.m. bus stop to return to their off-campus homes, with the assumption they are saving thousands of dollars on the cost of living.

Besides the freedoms of being on one’s own, another lure of off-campus housing is the perceived lower cost. Most students are focused on the cost of monthly rent, but neglect to consider the costs of food, furniture, utilities, transportation and more.

The cost of room and board is $9,512 for the 2011-2012 academic year according to the Office of Institutional Research (OIR) at UMass, a $700 increase from last year. Some students are able to cut these costs in half, through analytical research of finding off campus complexes.

According to Residential Life, roughly 12,000 students choose to live on campus of the 28,000 total enrolled for the 2011-2012 school year. This means more than half of the UMass student population decides to stray away from dorm rooms.

Executive Director of Residential Life Eddie Hull said no off-campus home can be comparable to what is offered in the dorms.

“What comes out of your pocket is one factor, yes, but you’re not going to be able to find any off-campus experience that is going to mirror in any way, shape or form what it’s going to be like to live on campus,” said Hull. “And is that for everybody? No.”

On-campus living was not for junior kinesiology major Erika Digiacomo, who was unhappy with her two years in the dorms of Southwest Residential Area.

“I just didn’t want to be stuck living in the dorms again having to shower with flip flops, signing my friends in and only having a small living area,” she said.

Digiacomo, currently a resident of Puffton Village, finds her off campus complex to be the best economical option for her. Living with three other roommates, Digiacomo pays roughly $460 a month for both rent and utilities, while her grocery expenses can range from $25 to $50 a week.

With a 12-month lease, this Puffton Village apartment costs Digiacomo roughly $6,000 a year, saving her approximately $3,512 by choosing to live off campus. But, she realizes there is still a list of other expenses to factor in.

“On paper, living off campus in Puffton seems to be the cheaper option. But after adding in food, gas and other paper supplies, I believe the cost to be pretty close to even,” said Digiacomo, “Economically, this was the best option for me. It’s affordable and also added a new element to living away at school. Puffton is a very convenient place to live.”

Thea Costine, former manager of housing assignments, is now the manager of student off-campus housing and runs the UMass off campus housing website,

After seeing what it costs students to live both on and off campus, Costine finds living off campus to be a viable option for students who are prepared. Her website and workshops such as Renting 101 and 102 held in the dining commons promote tips, information and resources for students who have questions about living off campus.

At these workshops, Costine focuses on what a legal lease should look like, what both the tenant and landlord should be aware of as well as how to sublet. Costine’s primary concern is to prepare students to live off campus so that the transition is successful.

Since she started her job in 2006, Costine has come to find that there are more financial risks and concerns when choosing to live off campus.

“Can it be more economical to live off campus? Yes. Is it more complicated to live off campus? Yes. Because you are living with people that they may be your great friends, but what you don’t know for sure is how well they manage their money,” she said.

Costine stressed it can be less expensive to live off campus, but said it ultimately depends on how fiscally savvy someone is and how they live.

When living off campus, some students may be paying their first water bill, preparing their own food and essentially keeping together a household. Costine said this sense of independence is exactly what she wants for the students, but she said, for some, it can be a real wake-up call.

“There are some students off campus that shouldn’t be because they didn’t understand the flip side of independence. It’s like, holy crap, we just had the phone turned off, or we just had the electricity turned off, because this housemate, whose the greatest guy in the world, didn’t pay the bill,” said Costine.

For this reason, Costine does not think the dorms are outrageously expensive. By paying two bills, one at the start of each semester, everything is included.

Senior communications major Janelle Zoebelein lives off campus on North Pleasant Street. She said she could never go back to the dorms, even though she would have less to worry about. Unaware of the costs for room and board on campus, Zoebelein said regardless, she would still choose to live off campus.

Zoebelein chose to live off campus for the freedom. She appreciates her independence from residential assistants.

“I think it’s cheaper, but if not I don’t care because I like it,” she said.

Students like Zoebelein find that the quality of life outweighs any extra hassles and expenses off campus living can bring.

Brittney Figueira can be reached at [email protected]

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