The cost difference between living on- and off-campus in the 48 biggest college towns in America, ranked

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Is it cheaper to live on campus or off campus during college?

  • With the cost of college already at an all-time high, is it more affordable to live on campus or off campus?
  • Trulia recently took a look at how much it costs to live on campus and off campus in 48 of America's biggest college towns.
  • In more than half of the places, it was either the same price or cheaper to live off campus, with an average savings of $219 a month - but there are a few caveats.

The cost of college has already reached an all-time high - and while many worry about the price tag of tuition, they often overlook the expense of a place to live.

But what's more affordable - the dorm room on campus or an apartment off campus? Well, that answer depends on which college you attend and which college town you're living in.Advertisement

Trulia recently took a look at how much it costs to live on campus and off campus in 48 of America's biggest college towns. To determine this list, Trulia chose US Census-defined places of at least 45,000 people, 20% of which were enrolled in college or graduate school.

Consulting the website of the largest college or university in each place, the site then calculated on-campus housing costs for a full nine-month academic year based on monthly or per-semester rates, excluding meal plans where possible.

Trulia then compared on-campus monthly housing costs to the median estimated monthly cost of a two-bedroom home in a 12-month rental in each place, assuming the cost was split in half between two roommates and divided over nine months to match the academic year.
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In more than half of the places, it was either the same price or cheaper to live off campus, with an average savings of $219 a month for those with a roommate. However, eight of these places include meal plans in the on-campus housing costs - if removed, that brings the average savings down to $146 a month. And, most utilities aren't included in off-campus rentals, which could lessen the savings once factored in.

For the 20 places where on-campus housing was more affordable, students would save an average of $221 a month. Note that none of these included a meal plan.Below, see how much it costs to live on- and off-campus in America's biggest college towns. Starred on-campus monthly housing costs indicate that a meal plan was included in the estimate.Advertisement

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48. Kansas State University — Manhattan, Kansas

48. Kansas State University — Manhattan, Kansas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $667

On-campus monthly housing cost: $667

Cost difference: $0

47. University of Wisconsin-Madison — Madison, Wisconsin

47. University of Wisconsin-Madison — Madison, Wisconsin

Off-campus median monthly rent: $865

On-campus monthly housing cost: $866*

Cost difference: $1

* includes meal plan

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46. California State University Chico — Chico, California

46. California State University Chico — Chico, California

Off-campus median monthly rent: $860

On-campus monthly housing cost: $868

Cost difference: $8

45. University of Kansas — Lawrence, Kansas

45. University of Kansas — Lawrence, Kansas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $694

On-campus monthly housing cost: $676

Cost difference: $18

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44. University of Iowa — Iowa City, Iowa

44. University of Iowa — Iowa City, Iowa

Off-campus median monthly rent: $753

On-campus monthly housing cost: $771

Cost difference: $18

43. Oregon State University — Corvallis, Oregon

43. Oregon State University — Corvallis, Oregon

Off-campus median monthly rent: $967

On-campus monthly housing cost: $988

Cost difference: $21

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42. University of Arkansas — Fayetteville, Arkansas

42. University of Arkansas — Fayetteville, Arkansas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $693

On-campus monthly housing cost: $670

Cost difference: $23

41. Liberty University — Lynchburg, Virginia

41. Liberty University — Lynchburg, Virginia

Off-campus median monthly rent: $535

On-campus monthly housing cost: $511

Cost difference: $24

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40. University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, Michigan

40. University of Michigan — Ann Arbor, Michigan

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,193

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,222*

Cost difference: $29

* includes meal plan

39. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill, North Carolina

39. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Off-campus median monthly rent: $873

On-campus monthly housing cost: $907

Cost difference: $34

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38. Arizona State University — Tempe, Arizona

38. Arizona State University — Tempe, Arizona

Off-campus median monthly rent: $825

On-campus monthly housing cost: $861

Cost difference: $36

37. Indiana University, Bloomington — Bloomington, Indiana

37. Indiana University, Bloomington — Bloomington, Indiana

Off-campus median monthly rent: $733

On-campus monthly housing cost: $774

Cost difference: $41

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36. University of Florida — Gainesville, Florida

36. University of Florida — Gainesville, Florida

Off-campus median monthly rent: $641

On-campus monthly housing cost: $687

Cost difference: $46

35. Excelsior College — Albany, New York

35. Excelsior College — Albany, New York

Off-campus median monthly rent: $923

On-campus monthly housing cost: $976

Cost difference: $53

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34. Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts

34. Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,787

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,733

Cost difference: $54

33. Western Michigan University — Kalamazoo, Michigan

33. Western Michigan University — Kalamazoo, Michigan

Off-campus median monthly rent: $665

On-campus monthly housing cost: $581

Cost difference: $84

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32. Western Kentucky University — Bowling Green, Kentucky

32. Western Kentucky University — Bowling Green, Kentucky

Off-campus median monthly rent: $585

On-campus monthly housing cost: $498

Cost difference: $87

31. Western Washington University — Bellingham, Washington

31. Western Washington University — Bellingham, Washington

Off-campus median monthly rent: $991

On-campus monthly housing cost: $884

Cost difference: $107

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30. Auburn University — Auburn, Alabama

30. Auburn University — Auburn, Alabama

Off-campus median monthly rent: $689

On-campus monthly housing cost: $798

Cost difference: $109

29. Texas A&M University — College Station, Texas

29. Texas A&M University — College Station, Texas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $760

On-campus monthly housing cost: $875

Cost difference: $115

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28. University of North Dakota — Grand Forks, North Dakota

28. University of North Dakota — Grand Forks, North Dakota

Off-campus median monthly rent: $728

On-campus monthly housing cost: $600

Cost difference: $128

27. University of Missouri — Columbia, Missouri

27. University of Missouri — Columbia, Missouri

Off-campus median monthly rent: $603

On-campus monthly housing cost: $736

Cost difference: $133

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26. East Carolina University — Greenville, North Carolina

26. East Carolina University — Greenville, North Carolina

Off-campus median monthly rent: $479

On-campus monthly housing cost: $613

Cost difference: $134

25. University of Georgia — Athens, Georgia

25. University of Georgia — Athens, Georgia

Off-campus median monthly rent: $630

On-campus monthly housing cost: $778

Cost difference: $148

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24. Texas State University — San Marcos, Texas

24. Texas State University — San Marcos, Texas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $825

On-campus monthly housing cost: $978

Cost difference: $153

23. Iowa State University —Ames, Iowa

23. Iowa State University —Ames, Iowa

Off-campus median monthly rent: $711

On-campus monthly housing cost: $528

Cost difference: $183

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22. University of Alabama — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

22. University of Alabama — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Off-campus median monthly rent: $741

On-campus monthly housing cost: $556

Cost difference: $185

21. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse — La Crosse, Wisconsin

21. University of Wisconsin-La Crosse — La Crosse, Wisconsin

Off-campus median monthly rent: $633

On-campus monthly housing cost: $425

Cost difference: $208

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20. Towson University — Towson, Maryland

20. Towson University — Towson, Maryland

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,054

On-campus monthly housing cost: $807

Cost difference: $247

19. Brigham Young University — Provo, Utah

19. Brigham Young University — Provo, Utah

Off-campus median monthly rent: $693

On-campus monthly housing cost: $417

Cost difference: $276

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18. Florida State University — Tallahassee, Florida

18. Florida State University — Tallahassee, Florida

Off-campus median monthly rent: $593

On-campus monthly housing cost: $875

Cost difference: $282

17. University of California Santa Cruz — Santa Cruz, California

17. University of California Santa Cruz — Santa Cruz, California

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,955

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,670

Cost difference: $285

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16. Rutgers University — New Brunswick, New Jersey

16. Rutgers University — New Brunswick, New Jersey

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,173

On-campus monthly housing cost: $860

Cost difference: $313

15. Oklahoma State University — Stillwater, Oklahoma

15. Oklahoma State University — Stillwater, Oklahoma

Off-campus median monthly rent: $560

On-campus monthly housing cost: $876

Cost difference: $316

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14. Illinois State University — Normal, Illinois

14. Illinois State University — Normal, Illinois

Off-campus median monthly rent: $597

On-campus monthly housing cost: $921

Cost difference: $324

13. University of North Texas — Denton, Texas

13. University of North Texas — Denton, Texas

Off-campus median monthly rent: $922

On-campus monthly housing cost: $567

Cost difference: $355

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12. University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California

12. University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, California

Off-campus median monthly rent: $2,263

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,861

Cost difference: $402

11. University of California, Davis — Davis, California

11. University of California, Davis — Davis, California

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,229

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,633*

Cost difference: $404

* includes meal plan

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10. Northern Arizona University — Flagstaff, Arizona

10. Northern Arizona University — Flagstaff, Arizona

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,027

On-campus monthly housing cost: $620

Cost difference: $407

9. University of Colorado, Boulder — Boulder, Colorado

9. University of Colorado, Boulder — Boulder, Colorado

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,296

On-campus monthly housing cost: $888

Cost difference: $408

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8. Colorado State University — Fort Collins, Colorado

8. Colorado State University — Fort Collins, Colorado

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,026

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,444*

Cost difference: $418

* includes meal plan

7. University of South Carolina — Columbia, South Carolina

7. University of South Carolina — Columbia, South Carolina

Off-campus median monthly rent: $551

On-campus monthly housing cost: $975

Cost difference: $424

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6. James Madison University — Harrisonburg, Virginia

6. James Madison University — Harrisonburg, Virginia

Off-campus median monthly rent: $659

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,121*

Cost difference: $462

* includes meal plan

5. Michigan State University — Lansing and East Lansing, Michigan

5. Michigan State University — Lansing and East Lansing, Michigan

Off-campus median monthly rent: $620

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,141

Cost difference: $521

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4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — Champaign, Illinois

4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — Champaign, Illinois

Off-campus median monthly rent: $671

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,218*

Cost difference: $547

* includes meal plan

3. California Polytechnic State University — San Luis Obispo, California

3. California Polytechnic State University — San Luis Obispo, California

Off-campus median monthly rent: $1,553

On-campus monthly housing cost: $917

Cost difference: $636

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2. University of Oklahoma — Norman, Oklahoma

2. University of Oklahoma — Norman, Oklahoma

Off-campus median monthly rent: $566

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,221*

Cost difference: $655

* includes meal plan

1. Ball State University — Muncie, Indiana

1. Ball State University — Muncie, Indiana

Off-campus median monthly rent: $399

On-campus monthly housing cost: $1,106*

Cost difference: $707

* includes meal plan

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