Housing prices contribute to number of students graduating with debt

Students pay an average monthly rent of $681 at the University of Memphis. This is just slightly less than the average monthly rent of $718 at Middle Tennessee State University. Utilities, wifi and furniture—extra large twin bed and mattress, desk and its chair, and a chest of drawers—are included in the price. Parking, an area where the university struggles according to students and Foursquare users, is not included in students’ rent.

With housing prices at the current rate, some students say living in a dorm isn’t as economical as living off-campus after paying what they do for tuition. In the past 35 years, college tuition has quadrupled according to the New York Times contributing to the mounting financial stress of college aged students. In addition to tuition, some students must pay for books, room and board and miscellaneous expenses like insurance and cell phone bills.

Because of this increase in tuition, more and more students are graduating with student debt. Last year, the average debt of University of Memphis students was over $25,000 with 68 percent of students graduating with debt, according to the institute for college access and success.

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Morgin Tucker, senior history major, graduates from the U of M this coming May. In her freshman year, she lived in the Living Learning Complex then moved into a rental house with two other roommates where she now pays $273 monthly. In order to pay rent, buy groceries, and pay for all of her other expenses, Tucker works at a daycare and babysits. Although she is working two jobs, she is concerned about her upcoming graduation.

“I’m worried I might not be able to find a job after I get out of school,” Tucker said. “I know I have six months before I have to start paying for them, but it still worries me.”

Brittney Kirk is a senior integrative studies major with a concentration in youth services. While serving on the exec board of her sorority, she was required to live in the on-campus house.

After living in the house for two years, she will be moving out next month when her term as chapter president comes to an end. When Kirk graduates in May, she will be about $17,000 in debt due to the student loans she took out to help pay for tuition, housing and necessary expenses.

Although the senior worked during her undergraduate career, she still found it necessary to take out student loans.

“I also have to go to grad school after undergrad so it will only get worse,” Kirk said. “I’m sure it’s going to take a very long time to pay all of it back and the thought of that freaks me out.”

Senior criminal justice major Alex Francis lived in her sorority house, a Carpenter Complex townhome, for a semester. Because a room in the house averages nearly $3,600 a semester, she had to take out extra loans to pay for the cost. After moving out of her sorority house, she moved back home with her parents’ house before moving in a house near campus where she pays $370 a month.

There are many pros and cons to living on campus, Francis says. But more than anything else, she enjoys living off campus because her home on Echles St. is a “steal” when you look at the price she pays. Her jobs at St. George’s Independent School, the New Daisy Theater, and babysitting provide her with money to pay her monthly rent.

When Francis graduates in December, she hopes to work full time to save money for law school where she will be attending in the fall.

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About the Author

Megan Cook
Megan Cook is a senior journalism major at the University of Memphis who has been published on HerCampus Memphis, in the Daily Helmsman, and in Ohio-based music magazine Substream magazine. After graduating this December, she hopes to be a music journalist-preferably for a magazine, but she isn’t picky. As a college student herself, Megan’s interest in covering Memphis youth comes from the lack of representation of voices similar to hers in news stories across all outlets. At the MTV Video Music Awards Kanye West said, “Listen to the kids bruh.” Megan wants to help make his statement happen in Memphis by covering the topics that are important to the city’s youth. When not writing articles for the Memphis Mirror, she can probably be found at a concert, spending time with her pet rabbit, or drinking coffee.

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