• Parents and students should not rely on universities to provide accurate housing cost figures.
  • More students will have to share a room in order to live affordably.
  • Developers/owners of off-campus student housing are likely to offer cheaper options than universities.

When estimating off-campus housing costs for an academic year — nine months — parents and students should do their own homework and not rely on estimates provided by universities.

According to recent analysis from Trulia, schools often underestimate the cost of off-campus housing by thousands of dollars.

Trulia recently looked up the estimated housing costs provided by 20 large universities across the country and then calculated the median rent for apartments in the nearest ZIP codes based on its rental listings.

The listings site found that schools are not updating their estimated housing costs frequently enough, especially for neighborhoods with fast-rising housing costs. As a result, the costs listed on their websites do not accurately represent the local rental markets, setting parents and students up for a financial surprise.

unnamed (1)

The biggest disparities in estimated off-campus rents versus Trulia’s calculations occurred at coastal California schools. Three schools in the University of California system — Santa Barbara, Berkeley and Los Angeles — feature off-campus housing that is 33 to 53 percent more expensive than estimated.

To pay a monthly rent cheaper than the cost being estimated by these schools, two students would have to share the cost of a one-bedroom apartment, or three people would have to split the cost of a two-bedroom.

Despite most colleges doing a subpar job when it comes to assessing off-campus housing costs, Trulia did find that at 15 of 20 universities analyzed, it is cheaper to rent off-campus than to utilize university housing.


In some cases, on-campus living was significantly more expensive. At Purdue University, off-campus living is 69 percent cheaper, while at the University of Chicago, it is 66 percent less expensive.

Living off-campus is 56 percent and 52 percent more affordable at the University of New Mexico and Brigham Young University, respectively.

If students have to pay for a 12-month lease or rent in a high-priced market, this may make on-campus housing a more affordable option. At Stanford University, it is 50 percent cheaper for a student to share a two-bedroom apartment on-campus versus off-campus.

Email Erik Pisor.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Real estate news and analysis that gives you the inside track. Subscribe to Inman Select for 50% off.SUBSCRIBE NOW×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription