As most people are well aware, college is expensive — especially if a student has their eye on one in New York City, where the cost of living is considerably higher than the national average.

Housing costs in particular can be astronomical here, and as a result, incoming students may be contemplating which option offers more savings: on-campus or off-campus housing. According to our recent analysis, it’s worth exploring. On-campus housing costs for colleges outside Manhattan tend to be much more expensive than living off campus, while the higher market-rate rents of neighborhoods surrounding NYU, Columbia, Pace and Hunter colleges make off-campus living the pricier option. We also found the rent range for on-campus housing to be much smaller compared to off-campus market prices.


To compare apples to apples, we considered the rate of single rooms on campus and compared that to the cost of living in a private bedroom off campus. For example, if a student plans to live in a 2-bedroom apartment, we assume that total rent for the apartment is split evenly between two roommates. For studio and 1-bedroom apartments, we make the assumption that the student will be living with no roommates.

Off-campus housing costs were calculated in the neighborhood where the campus is located and the surrounding neighborhoods. At New York University (NYU), for example, the off-campus housing cost was calculated for rental listings in Greenwich Village (where the campus is located) as well as Chelsea, East Village, Flatiron, Gramercy Park, Lower East Side, Nolita, Soho and the West Village.

Our analysis finds that for schools located in Manhattan, on-campus housing is considerably less expensive than the cost of a nearby off-campus apartment. For example, if an NYU student chooses to live in a single room on campus, the average monthly housing cost is $2,028, while the median off-campus housing cost is $2,650 — a monthly difference of $622 a month and $7,464 a year. At Hunter College’s Brookdale residence hall, the average monthly estimate is 70 percent cheaper than living off-campus.

Conversely, on-campus housing at colleges located outside of Manhattan tends to be more expensive than off-campus housing. At the College of Staten Island, off-campus housing costs a median of $850 a month compared to $1,581 for on-campus housing.


Borough Average Monthly Cost Estimate of Single Rooms Average Monthly Cost Estimate of All Rooms Median Cost of Living Off-Campus in a Single Room Price Difference Price Difference  %
Hunter College Manhattan $797.78 $1,034.96 $2,650.00 -$1,852.22 -69.9%
Columbia  Manhattan $1,001.17 $998.76 $2,150.00 -$1,148.83 -53.4%
Pace  Manhattan $2,177.78 $1,879.75 $3,100.00 -$922.22 -29.7%
NYU  Manhattan $2,028.38 $1,659.50 $2,650.00 -$621.62 -23.5%
Brooklyn College  Brooklyn $1,674.07 $1,560.83 $1,137.50 $536.57 47.2%
Fordham  Bronx $1,898.19 $1,337.06 $1,295.00 $603.19 46.6%
Queens College  Queens $1,674.89 $1,505.22 $1,500.00 $174.89 11.7%
St.John’s  Queens $1,511.85 $1,277.68 $1,400.00 $111.85 8.0%
College of Staten Island  Staten Island $1,581.11 $1,508.33 $850.00 $731.11 86.0%


Overall, it’s cheaper to live on campus in relatively high-rent areas, while it’s cheaper to live off campus in lower rent areas. This seems rather intuitive, but highlights how important it is for students (and their families) to examine the cost of renting in surrounding neighborhoods and to take time comparing their options.

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