Crunching the cost of your campus life

Crunching the cost of your campus life

February 25
23:15 2013

What do UNT’s student fees and homemade bread have in common? You can’t guarantee the bread will rise.

At least that’s the impression we got from a meeting of the UNT Board of Regents on Feb. 14. But bad jokes aside, increased fees for housing and food on campus might be the least of our worries.

The board voted to increase room and board costs by 3.6 percent, and after announcing that campus housing is at full capacity right now, the regents discussed the need for new residence halls. Financing those new halls would require a 10 to 15 percent increase in housing costs.

Things got weird when the regents mentioned possibly changing residence policy and requiring sophomores to live on campus, instead of allowing students to find their own housing after one year.

This is the part where we spit out our coffee and started paying attention. Although it’s just an idea at this point, it’s a fairly serious one.

Living on campus and paying for a meal plan can be expensive, and with prices going up, how much could this change cost students? We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we shopped around.

Imagine you’re the solitary type, and would prefer to live alone. The cheapest single occupancy housing option at UNT is at College Inn, in an efficiency dorm called a “matchbox.” Cute, huh?

We found a comparable one bedroom apartment on Stella St. about two blocks from campus. It’s actually just down the road from College Inn, and the $595 monthly rent covers all utility bills and high-speed Internet access, so we think it’s a fair comparison to dorm life.

Figuring out food costs was a little harder. We decided that a monthly food budget of $225 was fair for a single student, especially if they like to eat cheap college staples like instant ramen noodles.

Graphic by James Rambin/Views Editor

Of course, what we’re purposefully ignoring in this breakdown is whether or not comparably priced on and off-campus housing and amenities can really be judged by monetary value alone.

Can you put a price on the freedom to buy your own food and use your own kitchen? What about peace and quiet? Sure, there are plenty of loud apartments and quiet dorms, and if you’re lucky you might get an RA who’s way nicer than a landlord.

But the really glaring fact is that an aptly named College Inn matchbox clocks in at 175 square feet, while the one-bedroom apartment we found for a few bucks cheaper has more than three times that space at 550 square feet.

Get a tape measure, pace out 175 square feet and decide if you could live in that space for nine months without going insane. Then ask yourself if it’s worth the higher price.

On the other hand, living in a dorm and buying a meal plan gives students much less to worry about. You don’t have to furnish a dorm, and eating every meal in a dining hall means you don’t have to shop for food or prepare it yourself.

The bottom line is that whether you choose to live on or off campus during your college career, there should still be a choice.

We understand that UNT needs more cash if they’re going to build more residence halls, but forcing students to live in university housing for an extra year just isn’t the answer.

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