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Making the decision to move off campus: It’s more than the cost of rent

For many students, the first time they move off campus is a time of experimentation. Not being tied down to a mortgage or worries about resale value of a property, a student’s search for off-campus housing is often the first time they get to take a foray into the real world, yet still have a margin for mistakes.

Many CSU students bike to class regardless of if they live on or off campus. (Photo by Ryan Arb)
Many CSU students bike to class, regardless of whether they live on or off campus. (Photo by Ryan Arb.)

One of students’ main considerations when looking at off-campus housing options is the price of rent. According to a recent report from Apartmentlist.com, which collects data on rent prices across the country, the median price for two-bedroom rentals in Fort Collins has reached $1,380. Fort Collins has the eighth most expensive median rent price in the state, the report says. 

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“What (students) find, I think, is that rental vacancy is at an all-time low, and they’re having to make … so it’s a really competitive market, which is bringing the rental rates up, especially the closer you get to campus,” CSU Alternative Transportation manager Aaron Fodge said.

According to Fodge, a conundrum appears when a student must make the decision either to live closer to campus and pay a higher rent or live farther away and find a way to get to campus.

“Transportation is at the heart of where a student chooses to live,” Fodge said. “If you’re just looking at rent (close to campus), you’re not taking the true opportunity cost into account. By living closer, you’re paying more for your rent, but you’re paying less in transportation.”

However, according to Emily Allen, who serves as community liaison between the Office of Off-Campus Life and the City of Fort Collins, a person’s transportation needs may go beyond simply getting to campus.

“I think it’s dependent on the person, I think it’s dependent on their needs, it’s dependent on what else they’re doing,” Allen said. “If it’s not just CSU, are they commuting somewhere else to a place of employment that’s farther out? I think that there’s pros and cons to every single living situation you could possibly think of.”

According to Fodge, despite the price of gas currently being low, transportation costs can quickly rack up, especially if the price of gas rises again.

“The cost of our permits are close to $500, and say you’re looking at … at least $1,000 for vehicle insurance,” Fodge said. “So, you’ve got cost of your rent, cost for insurance, fuel and then maintenance on your vehicle. … If you live close, you can pretty much eliminate that cost if you’re willing to walk, ride your bike or take transit.”

The total cost of transportation-related charges, divided by the eight months of the academic year, should be calculated in addition to the monthly cost for rent, Fodge said. 

“Plus, you have to drive that additional distance to the University,” Fodge said. “When you’re driving, that’s time when you could be doing something else. … Transit is great because not only does it get you to where you need to go, but also you can … be social, you can prepare for your test, you can check your emails for the day, you can check your calendar, you can read the newspaper.” 

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Fodge said that living closer to campus provides added benefits, including the ability to get exercise from walking or biking to school or work. Currently, Fort Collins citizens bike to work at a rate 11 times higher than the national average, according to statistics obtained by the Coloradoan in 2014. 

“When you start looking at the full costs of where you decide to live, then you can really make a true decision about, is it really worth it to pay lower rent?” Fodge said.

Collegian Reporter Julia Rentsch can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @julia_rentsch.

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