• Living On vs Off-Campus 

When deciding to live on vs off-campus, there are many costs to consider. Examining the following costs may help you decide which option best fits your needs. 

        • Room Rent

The most obvious difference between your two options is the monthly rental price. Prices on campus vary widely, but you won’t find a room for lower than $1500 a month. This does include all utilities. 

 You most likely would be able to find a room off-campus for $700-$1400 a month, depending on how many roommates you want, the location of the apartment or house, and the amenities included. This price may not include utilities or parking fees. 

        • Utilities

On-campus housing includes utilities for most options. This means the price you see is the only price you’ll pay. In off-campus housing, you may end up paying $100 or more a month in utilities in addition to your regular rent. Utilities could include internet, electric, gas, water, trash, and cable. 

        • Location

Being on campus means you have quick access to classes, dining, and campus activities. You can wake up 15 minutes before class and make it on time. However, if you don’t have a car on campus, you’d need to use the bus or a ZipCar to get to the beach, restaurants, or other places in the area. 

If you’re off-campus, you may be able to get a parking pass so you can drive to and from campus. However, you may have to rely on the bus. When you’re not going to class, you have easier access to Santa Cruz and all the things to do in the area. 

        • More Freedom, More Responsibility

When living on-campus, you have many restrictions on what you can’t do or use in your room. However, you have the ease of mind that you don’t have a lot of responsibility when it comes to cleaning. You may only be responsible for keeping up your room. 

When living off-campus, you have more freedom to do what you want in your living space, but that comes with more responsibility. You would be responsible for cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom along with your room, and you may have an outdoor space to tend to as well. 


  • How Much Rent Can I Afford?

When looking at renting, keep in mind that you will have to pay for rent every month. When you sign a lease, you are agreeing to pay your rent amount for the next 12 months in most cases. So, while you may be able to afford $2000 a month in the summer when you are working full time, that rent may be too expensive when you are only working part-time during the school year. 

Begin by looking at your take-home pay on a month by month basis. Do you bring home about the same amount of money each month? Will your available income possibly grow or decrease within the next year? While it is impossible to see the future, you can guess that your income will increase when you graduate, or that your expenses will decrease if you move to an area that has a lower cost of living. 

Once you have an idea of how much money you have to work with each month, you can decide on a price point for your place. To make sure you can afford other expenses, try to only look at rental places that cost 20-30% of your monthly take-home pay. If you live in a higher cost of living area, you may have to increase what you are willing to spend and look at apartments and rooms up to 50% of your take-home pay. However, if you still can’t find any places within your budget at that point, you may not be able to afford an apartment in the area you are currently looking at. 

Remember to add about $100 a month to the rental price to account for utilities if those are not already included in your rent. 

Also, keep in mind that you are not buying a place; you are only agreeing to live somewhere for a year. While you may be drawn to a recently updated beautiful apartment at the top of your budget, you might consider renting the smaller, older room that gives your budget more wiggle room. You can always save the difference each month so at the end of the year, you can rent a nicer apartment without any worries. 


  • What if I Can’t Afford My Rent?

Life happens, and sometimes you may have trouble paying your rent. Depending on the situation, you may have some options. 

If you are waiting to get paid, and you think you can pay rent a few days late, reach out to your landlord. While you may have to pay a small late fee, communicating with your landlord as soon as you know you won’t be able to pay on time keeps you in their good graces in case this happens again in the future. 

If you are consistently unable to pay rent, take a look at your budget. See if there are areas you can cut down on spending, such as entertainment or eating out. If you have stretched your budget as much as possible and still can’t make ends meet, try to talk with a financial coach or one of the on-campus support departments. There are multiple resources available that can provide emergency funding or other support. 

Governmental assistance does exist for housing, but there can be a long waitlist and rigid qualifications. Subsidized housing, or housing priced based on a person’s income, can be available depending on your income. The HUD (Housing and Urban Development) government website has information on subsidized housing and income limits. 


  • Finding a Place to Live

Finding a comfortable, affordable place to live can be difficult if you don’t know where to start looking. The Housing Office has resources for choosing on-campus housing, and there are links to some off-campus resources. If you are looking for an off-campus rental, try to start searching about a month before you want to move in. This gives you time to find a place, but it’s late enough that anyone looking for a tenant will have their apartment or room listed for rent. 

There are many websites to find available apartments. Rent.com, Zillow.com, and Apartments.com are the most popular nationwide search sites. Facebook also has local housing groups that you can join. In these groups, people post places for rent, and renters looking for a place can post about themselves to find roommates or a landlord with an availability. 

The Rental Application Process