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When It Comes to Living in College Towns, Tuition Isn’t Always the Biggest Bill

MONDAY, SEP 16, 2019

Housing costs in college towns are chewing up student incomes almost as fast as tuition, according to a Social Explorer analysis. The 10 metros where renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing all either host or are bedroom communities for universities, according to the 2013-17 American Community Survey data.

Visualize and analyze where renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing on the MSA level.
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Figures compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) also underscore the financial dilemma for students. The typical bill for tuition and fees at a four-year college rose to $15,512 — almost 14 percent — between 2009 and 2017, according to the NCES. Room and board costs for students, however, represent a large portion of higher education costs and climbed 13.4 percent to $11,080 annually during the same period.

The college-town rent figures, which can be analyzed and mapped with Social Explorer, reflect a sobering reality of higher education – U.S. student debt has soared past $1.5 trillion, as young people with few financial assets have borrowed heavily to pay skyrocketing tuition costs while acting as a captive market for landlords in university towns.

Nationwide, only 23.7 percent of Americans spend more than half of their income on rent. In Boone, N.C., however, 40.4 percent of residents, including students at Appalachian State University, spend more than half their income on rent. The costs of attending Appalachian more than doubled for an out-of-state student living off-campus between 2008 and 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The bill rose from $15,092 to $34,380, the center’s data show.

Oxford, Miss., the home of the University of Mississippi, ranked second (39.5 percent), and Rexburg, Idaho, which hosts a Brigham Young University satellite campus, ranked third (36.9 percent). Other metros with high rental costs included Mount Pleasant, Mich., home of Central Michigan University (36.5 percent) and Pullman, Wash., adjacent to the University of Idaho (36 percent).

Other metros in the top 10 included Stillwater, Okla., the home of Oklahoma State University (35.2 percent); Ames, Iowa, which hosts Iowa State University (35.1 percent); Corvallis, Ore., where Oregon State University’s main campus is located (34.4 percent); College Station, Texas, the home of Texas A&M University (34.2 percent); and Starkville, Miss., which hosts Mississippi State University (34.1 percent).

Author: Frank Bass

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