Junior political science major Lindsay Castellaw was upset that she wasn’t able to join her friends at the Liberty Bowl as a part of the crowd who cheered on the Tigers football team to their second home win of the season. Instead of shouting cheers and watching the team move the ball up and down the field, she waited tables at Old Venice Pizza Company like she does 20 hours every week to pay for things like groceries and rent.
For in-state students at the University of Memphis such as Castellaw who live anywhere outside of their parent’s homes, the financial aid office estimates the cost of room and board alone as $9,061. Students from out-of-town have no option but to live outside of their parent’s homes, forcing them to pay the soaring prices of room and board.
While the University of Memphis is known as a commuter school, 10% of the student population lives on campus, as reported on the university’s adult and commuter students service. The average yearly income for this population is $2,691 according to the U.S. Census Reporter.
Most students receive scholarships or financial aid in addition to their annual income, financial assistance and who live on campus, their excess tuition money covers their housing costs. Because the housing is covered on the front end and includes utilities, cable and Internet, on-campus residents “don’t have to worry about budgeting each month like they would if they lived off campus, according to Residence Life Supervisor at the University of Memphis, Glenda Barton.
After living in university dorm Richardson Towers for a year, Castellaw moved to the Stratum, an off-campus apartment—a common trend among college students after realizing how much they are paying for on-campus housing, according to USA Today.
“The Stratum is cheaper than Richardson,” she said. “In Richardson, I shared a room with one girl and the bathroom with three other girls. At the Stratum, I have a bedroom to myself and I only share the bathroom with one other girl.”
Richardson is the fourth cheapest dorm on the U of M campus at $2,305 a semester with no meal plan, not a required purchase for students, and a roommate. Mynders Hall at $1,940 a semester with the same conditions plus no air conditioning and, as legend has it, a ghostly inhabitant, is the cheapest.
In the time since Castellaw was a freshman, university officials closed Mynders and are in the process of phasing out Richardson Towers with the new Centennial Place dorms. When that happens, Rawls and Smith Halls will be the cheapest dorms with a $2,050 price tag per semester, as mentioned in the university’s housing brochure for incoming students.
Barton said students without financial aid would be in the same situation on-campus as they are off campus.
“It depends on where they’re living, but it could total up to more than they would pay us and they would have to be budgeting since they can’t pay for those kinds of things (cable, utilities, groceries, rent, etc. . . ) on the front end,” Barton said.
Anyone living in campus housing, whether they receive financial aid or not, must have their balance (rent for the semester) paid in full before the beginning of the semester as stated in the campus housing contract. If this can’t be done, the student can opt-in for a payment plan paying half of the semester’s rent on the front-end and making payments throughout the remainder of the semester.
“I paid the half of my payment plan up front and it was everything I saved all summer,” previous Richardson Towers resident Ben Stanifer said, “So I had to get a job.” “After that, I couldn’t afford school anymore because I didn’t have time to save up enough before I had to pay half of my tuition for the next semester.”
During his freshman year, Stanifer fully accepted the loans and financial aid that were offered to him by the university. He was able to pay for his dorm for both the fall and spring semesters with that money.
“If you’re getting financial aid and scholarships each semester, that’s plenty of money to live off of,” Stanifer said. “But if not, you’re screwed.”
According to data released by the New York Times, 58% of students who pay for school on their own drop out before receiving their diploma. Stanifer accumulated $13,000 worth of student loans over his two-and-a-half year college career. After that, he put his education on hiatus because he was no longer able to pay for school, even with his offered loans.
When he realized how expensive living on campus was, he moved back into his parents’ house, a viable option for students who live in or near the city of Memphis. Ultimately, tuition has temporarily ended his college career. Stanifer plans to attend Southwest Community College next semester because the tuition is much less expensive than at the U of M, and he can remain in his parents’ home.