You should probably move off campus

By Ian Hagerty

Have you ever thought about living off-campus instead of in the dorms? I think it’s a great idea. If you find the right situation for yourself off of the University of Massachusetts campus, you can usually pay less for housing, have a more relaxing life style with more options and have more freedom.

The least expensive housing option that is available at UMass, which you can find listed on the UMass Amherst Residential Life website, is about $2,600 per semester and if you so choose, you can pay up to about $5,400. We can do a bit of simple math and come to realize that at $2,600 a semester, a student would be paying about $650 a month. To put this into perspective, I rented a cottage in downtown Amherst for $650 a month last year. That’s the same price for an entire cottage, compared to a shared dorm room. That was also a situation in which I was living on my own, which is one of the least desirable financial situations a student could ask for when living off-campus.

Of course I did have to pay for heat, electricity and internet to bring my home up to the same standard of living as a dorm. This cost me, on average, an extra $150 a month.

However, my home also had its own kitchen. This means that I was able to cook my own meals. This may not seem like a very big deal, but from a financial perspective, a kitchen can be very helpful. If you know how to shop with a keen eye and how to prepare food in the right ways, you can cook and eat happily for far less than it costs to pay for a meal plan at the dining halls. I can make a pot of chili with rice on the side for less than $30 and have it last me at least seven or eight meals. That’s about four dollars a meal, which is definitely cheaper than eating at the dining hall.

Now, considering rent and utilities versus a standard dorm fee as well as considering the cost of a meal plan compared to the cost of cooking your own food, you may still break even between the two options if you decided to live on your own off-campus. Simply finding a roommate can guarantee you will live for less. This year, I managed to rent a house with two other friends, and we each pay between $400 and $450 a month, which comes to about $600 total per month with utilities each. In this house, we also have an entire living room, a huge kitchen and our own private back yard. All of this and we are less than a mile away from campus. I’m not saying that there are thousands of houses just like this one, but it was not difficult at all for us to find. We even waited until the week before school started.  I know of at least a dozen other people that are in very similar situations themselves.

If the copious amounts of money one can save by living off-campus isn’t enough motivation for you, consider your quality of living. When you live in a dorm, you have to follow a distinct set of rules set by the school. You have to be quiet at certain hours, you have to sign friends in to have them over and you can’t even have a friendly gathering without worrying about getting written up. We aren’t angels. If there are rules many of us will break them and probably get in trouble at one point or another. Even studying can present a challenge because of the unstoppable noise of hundreds of people living within close proximity of you.

Of course, UMass requires that all freshmen spend their school year in on-campus housing. I think that this is an odd and somewhat pointless rule, but there can definitely be some benefits to staying on-campus your first year. If you come from living at home for your entire life, living amongst your peers, especially random ones can be an enchanting, enlightening and educational experience. Everyone should live with his or her fair share of strangers to get a feel for the world. There is no doubt this can be helpful.

So, if you are a freshman, enjoy your year on campus and make some good friends. After all, they are potential roommates. If you aren’t a freshman, go save some money, gain some freedom and make noise as late as you want. Why pay more for less?

Ian Hagerty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]