The Cost of University Residence

One of the more interesting discussions I have had with folks about the cost of University, is the cost of a child to go away to University. In most cases, children (for some period of time) who live away from home to go to school will live in Residence (or on campus housing of some kind). On campus housing when I was at school usually included the cost of food and such, but even that has changed.

How much can “Residence” cost? I can only draw on my own experiences and residence with food is now costing upwards of $4000 per term, or about $8000 a year.

Before I get a plethora of comments about how living off campus is cheaper, and getting your own apartment is cheaper, I realize that but let’s just stay on topic for now, and work with the $8000 per year cost of going to school away from home (note I have not included the costs of getting the child to and from this foreign location, which depending on the foreign location could be quite expensive as well (a child wanting to go to Memorial in Newfoundland who’s parents live in Vancouver, this cost would be huge)).

This figure is $8000 without actually going to school, and this can mean that if the child stays in residence for a 4 year degree is could cost well over $30,000.00, which is a very large amount of money.

One of the interesting solutions I have heard from a few parents is that they have offered their own children (who are near post secondary age) access to a car (or outright buying a car), if their child chooses to stay in town and lives at home during their degree. Is this bribery? Maybe, but it does have some method to the madness as well:

  • The cost of a good used car is much less than $8000 a year (gas, insurance, and parking).
  • If you already have an extra car, it can cost a great deal less than this.

I have made this offer to my youngest child, but I am confident she will not take me up on the offer (unfortunately her two older siblings have gone away, and she does not want to stay at home, if it means she might have to watch her younger brother).

Strangely we have had folks have very strong negative reactions to this idea, and I am not sure I completely understand the concern. The reaction usually is, “Why are you wasting that money, you should save it!”, but is this solution really ‘wasting’ money? I don’t think so, but I am curious to hear my reader’s point of view on this interesting financial plan.

{ 8 comments }

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Lynn C May 23, 2012, 6:52 PM

    Interesting concept……car vs. residence. My son has requested residence for his 3rd year and says it will allow more flexibility and time to study , complete assignments as he is on a University sports team that has both AM & PM practices. We live approximately 20 minutes from campus (in good traffic) / 35- 40 minutes by TTC.

    Your thoughts are welcome :)

    Reply
    • bigcajunman May 23, 2012, 9:06 PM

      Is he or she likely to kick in some money to help? It is going to cost you $10K for residence, can you make a car fit under that parameter?

      Reply
  • Migisi March 14, 2012, 11:52 PM

    Its interestiing. I love outside life. Even i will allow my kids to go away from home.

    Reply
  • Joe March 14, 2012, 5:06 PM

    My kids will be free to go to any school so long as their own hearts, minds, and wallets can take them there. Sadly they won’t be able to debt indenture themselves with OSAP because of their family’s income but they can always live at home for free.

    Reply
  • Sustainable PF March 14, 2012, 7:46 AM

    There comes a time in a young persons life where the feel a need for independence – to be out of Mom and Dad’s home (with the option of returning to eat lots and do laundry and have rent free summers). Call it freedom, out from under the watchful eye/thumb of authority, experience, living life.

    I don’t see this option has been inane however. Just keep in mind you will have food and utility expenses with the child staying home so take this into account when you calculate the $30k expense.

    Personally I think if the number is $8k/yr ($32k) you need to project inflation values (and rising university costs in general) into this number. Bump it up to at least $35k.

    Reply
  • Beth March 14, 2012, 6:50 AM

    I think the only people who can make the decision are you and your daughter :)

    I didn’t love residence life, but I did love experiencing a new city, being independent and living with roommates. There’s a lot of of the university experience I would have missed had i lived at home, and I wouldn’t have traded that for a car.

    Ultimately, the deciding factor for me was going where the best program was — where I would have the best chance of getting a job after graduation or getting into post-degree programs.

    Reply
  • Melissa March 14, 2012, 7:47 AM

    If it was already understood that the parents are paying for all university costs, then I think it’s a great idea. (Though I’d argue against the relative merits of a full ride.)

    That said, I think it’s almost always in a student’s best interests to live in residence for at least a year, because that’s always where you meet the friends that will stay with you throughout university, and it can be hard to jump into that in second year. Plus, it gives them a taste of independence, which is valuable, even if they end up moving home. If they stay at home the whole time, it’s likely they won’t move out at ALL until well into their 20s.

    If it were me, I’d all but insist on residence in first year, and offer to buy a car for the student in exchange for him/her moving back home for the final three years. There’s a top university about a ten minute drive from my hometown, and most of the people I know who went there did this. (Though most had to buy their own cars!)

    Reply
    • bigcajunman March 14, 2012, 7:59 AM

      Insisting is a nice way to put it, but since I have allowed my other kids to go away from home, I can’t overly insist.

      Reply

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