Do colleges eat tremendous losses every year while providing student housing?

For example, Columbia’s Room fee/year is around 5.5k, which is fairly standard among colleges, even though it’s in Manhattan. I just looked at some apartment postings in Morningside Heights, and most are $1500 monthly or higher.

So for someone attending for 9 months, he’d pay 13.5k on average living in an apartment, while he saves 8k by opting for Columbia’s student housing. How does Columbia afford this for all its students, year after year?

Well for one thing, Columbia may not pay property tax to the city for this property. I’m pretty sure they don’t for their undergraduate housing. They might on units that are more like apartments that they rent to graduate students.

But I suspect the main reason is they don’t need to make a profit on their units. Since they are giving scholarships to many students, they could well be subsidizing the housing as well. Students do not pay all the costs of their college education.

It also may be advantageous to their “marketing” to not have their housing look comparable to those at other schools since students presumably compare costs when making decisions on where to go.

First of all, where did you get the number $5,500? I just looked, and Columbia’s housing rates start at over $6,500. And that’s per person for shared housing. Presumably more than one person might live in an off-campus apartments, which makes the comparison very different.

I would also look to the price per square foot. I spent one semester in a dorm at Washington State University. I can’t remember the numbers, but the price per square foot was exorbitant. The only semester I had to take out loans was the one I was in the dorms.

Yeah, I know housing is bad in Manhattan, but I’d like to think for $13.5k you get a little more than a room the size of a sailboat cabin you have to share with another person.

colleges rarely “eat losses” on any facet of their university structure.

the whole design is to make money and schools are often particularly good at it.

By the way, don’t forget that whatever you’re paying Columbia in housing fees is on top of the $41,160 tuition, $2,144 mandatory fee and $2,805 estimated cost of books and other miscellaneous expenses.

The kicker is shared dorm rooms. When I was in college, the prison cell style dorms were 2 per room, with a shared bathroom with another room (4 people.) The “good” dorms had 2 bedrooms, 4 students, per room.

While some colleges and universities are for-profit institutions, most are not, and it is inaccurate to say they are designed to make money.

Yeah, but when I went that included your meal plan too.

Also, they probably paid off the mortgage a hundred years ago, so their costs are probably only maintenance.

I don’t know about Manhattan, but around here (SoCal) the rooms at Cal State are pretty outrageously expensive. They charge the students something like $650/month to share a bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment with three other roommates. That’s $2600/month for a freakin’ mediocre 2-bedroom, while even with our high real estate prices you can get something much nicer for that (like, a house) in the nearby vicinity if you were to go on your own.

Of course if you rent off-campus, you’re probably committed to a twelve-month lease but you only need the place for the nine months you’re in school. But aside from that issue, my experience was similar; off-campus housing was cheaper than the university housing. Which is why I was surprised by the OP.

Many colleges make it mandatory for students to live in college housing for at least their first year. I figure that’s strong evidence that students could find more economical alternatives. If college housing was really a bargain, they wouldn’t have to make students live there.

While universities themselves might not be “designed to make money,” and most are non-profit institutions, they are generally very concerned about income and about their economic well-being. For perfectly good reasons; if they go broke, they might have to close their doors.

While universities might not be in pursuit of a profit in the same way that a corporation is, they are well aware that maintaining sources of income is essential to their long-term survival, and plenty of universities see dorm rentals (compulsory in some cases, voluntary in others) as a good way to add to the institution’s income.

When i started grad school, my university, John Hopkins, required that all freshman undergrads live in the dorms. A few years later, the university added a bunch more dorms, and it is now required for both freshmen and sophomores to live in university housing. The only exemption to this rule is for those who come from the Baltimore area and who can commute to the university from the house of a parent of guardian. And that doesn’t cover a very high percentage of Hopkins undergrads.

Rates for a double room start at $3,575 per semester, and go up to $4,000. Single rooms start at about $4,100 and go up to $4,500. Freshmen are also required to purchase a meal plan, which is $2,680 per semester. Semesters at the university are under 4 months long, including move-in week and finals week.

So, a student in a double room is paying about $900 per month to share a room for sleeping. A student in a single room is paying over $1000 per month. Plus almost $700 a month for food. And both involve sharing common areas, bathrooms, etc.

When my wife and i left Baltimore two and a half years ago, we were renting a two-story, three bedroom rowhouse with basement, about four blocks from campus, for $1,300 a month.

I don’t know exactly what Columbia’s situation is, and rents are obviously much higher in New York City than in Baltimore, but some universities make good income from their on-campus housing. This money is not profit, per se, but it is money that the university can then use for other things.

Pretty much all the University of California schools I know of kick students out of dorms after the first year. The University of Maryland started kicking students out also, not so quickly, though. I suspect they aren’t making tons of money or they could use some to build more. Still, even though I had a nice single for two years when I was in college, it was nowhere as big as my first apartment.

How do they kick you out? Do they only allow freshman to stay at dorms?

Depends on the school and what their ratio of rooms to students is. Here in San Diego, UCSD guarantees housing for two years to every incoming freshman who wants to take advantage of it.

That’s basically how it works. If there are spaces left over after freshmen have been accommodated, upper classmen might be offered spaces, but generally you’re on your own after your freshman or sophomore year, depending on the university.

It’s not that they actually kick you out. Everyone gets kicked out over summer anyway. It’s just that they put new people in the rooms at the start of each new academic year.

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of four-year institutions in the United States that offer no housing at all, or very, very limited housing. Many are commuter schools, where the vast majority of the student population is from the area, and comes to campus every day by car, bus, train, bike, or on foot. In Australia, where i did my undergrad work, the number of on-campus housing spaces is generally very small compared to the size of the student body as a whole, and most students commute from their parents’ house or from rented off-campus accommodation.

No, the Columbia housing is a great deal. A few years ago, I toured the school with my daughter and they said that nearly all undergraduate students live on campus (the only exception were those who lived with relatives in NYC). They can’t get apartments for what they pay for housing at the college.

After my son’s first year in the dorm he wanted to move into an apartment with his friends. After looking at options it turned out that he could get a very nice apartment with his own room, parking, lanundry etc., adjacent to campus with something like $500 a month left over for food for the same price as in the dorm with the full meal plan. Plus, the apartment covered 12 months. The dorm was only open for 9 months and they kicked the kids during breaks. Somebody was making a whole pile of money on dorm rental.