Should you Live at Home during College?

The question of whether a student should live at home during college is a complicated one. Obviously, if your home is not near an accredited institution of higher education and you are not planning to do a totally online program, you will need to move. In the 2017-2018 academic year there were slightly more than 4,300 accredited 2-year and 4-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States (National Center of Higher Education Statistics). From this, one might assume that very few US residents live far away from a college campus. This is not quite the case.

According to an intriguing study on "education deserts" by the Chronicle of Higher Education, approximately 11.2 million US adults live more than a 60-minute drive from a public institution of higher education. (The researchers did not include private colleges or elite public institutions in their analysis because these institutions are not options for many people. Another study suggests about 1 in 6 high school seniors do not live nearby a college.) While the Chronicle research demonstrates that a significant number of people will need to move to attend college, it also reveals that a majority of adult Americans (96.5%) are within driving distance of at least a public college campus. This finding supports the notion that many people in the US could probably live at home while attending college. But is living at home the right decision?

According to the College Board's report, "Trends in College Pricing 2019" (page 23), in 2015-16, 28% of full-time undergraduates taking courses in classroom settings lived on campus and a nearly equal percent (27%) lived with their parents. Another 44% of students lived off campus. If you zoom in on the data here, you will notice that 51% of students attending a 2-year college lived at home with their parents, while 56% of students attending a private, nonprofit 4-year college were living on campus. The point here being that living at home often goes with attending a community college and living in a dorm correlates most often with attending a private school.

Now obviously some colleges require all or some of their students to live on campus, so this is not always an issue of student choice. US News and World Report actually provides a ranked list of colleges that have high percentages of students living in college housing. If you want to go to an institution where all of your fellow students are living on campus, this is a good table to take a look at.

My goal for this blog post is to get prospective students to think about what their goal is regarding their desired college experience. If you want to be enmeshed within a college environment where most of your fellow students are living around you in college housing, then typically a private college is going to meet that desire. If, however, you want to stay close to family and save money by living at home, then attending a 2-year community college is more of the norm. For further insights I recommend reading Kristen Kuchar's recent blog post, "Should you Live at Home to Save Money During College." It provides an excellent summary of the pros and cons on this issue.

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