Weighing the Costs: On- and Off-Campus


Between the 40-times rent rule and gentrification, New York City living expenses are always a topic of discussion. But how does McMahon Hall fare against the cost of living off campus?

(Tyler Martins/The Observer)
(Tyler Martins/The Observer)

McMahon’s housing rates for the 2013-2014 academic school were $16,600 for a single, $14,210 for a double or $10,170 for a triple only offered to freshmen. Considering students are only paying to stay during the academic year, the cheapest option offered to upperclassmen boils down to about $1,578 per month for nine months.

The Director of the Office of Residential Life, Jenifer Campbell, said, “We are still in the process of getting approvals from administration, but we are expecting a 3 percent housing rate increase for the next academic year.”

This would mean that the cheapest option for upperclassmen living in McMahon, a double, would cost approximately $1,626 a month for nine months.

“Our prices are based on the costs associated with operating the facility; it’s not just an arbitrary number,” Campbell said.  “Costs are factored relative to what it costs to operate the building including associated costs of staff, security, RAs, RFMs and RHA,” she continued.

Campbell sees the 3 percent increase as an accomplishment. “In the past, rates increased about 5 to 6 percent, so the University has been cognizant of trying to keep the costs down as much as possible, so the 3 percent is the base minimum that they could increase to at this point,” Campbell said.

At what point do the rate increases stop? That answer was undeterminable.

Gabriella Giunta, the president of Commuting Students’ Association and FCLC ’14, chose to live at home rather than McMahon residency. “It’s definitely a different experience but the good thing about Lincoln Center is that it is split pretty evenly, 50/50, commuter and residence students. There are a lot of different programs that help commuters students make this place their home,” she said.

“[Cost] definitely is a factor,” contributing to the amount of commuter students at Lincoln Center, Giunta said. “It’s not cheap to live in the dorms. But it is essentially an apartment in the Upper West Side…but it’s a lot,” she continued.

According to Apartments.com, a two-bedroom apartment on West 164th Street can cost as little as $1,950. Splitting the rent between four roommates, the same living quality as a double in McMahon, students would be looking at personal monthly cost of $488.

Lizbeth Sanchez FCLC ’14 saves a minimum of $6,000 a year living in an apartment in Washington Heights. “It’s a pretty big difference,” she said.

Sanchez decided to move off campus after her junior year for two main reasons: “First, it’s way cheaper than living in McMahon and there’s more freedom living off campus,” she said.

“As an adult in the city, McMahon is to stifling,” Sanchez said, specifically referencing the guest policy which requires an acquisition of a guest pass 24 hours prior to when the same-sex guest visits.

“There are tradeoffs in either setting,” Campbell acknowledged.  “I think sometimes if you are talking about the regulations and policies associated with living in a campus community, it is different than living in your own apartment.

“I often state the fact that if I don’t have some level of rules and regulations as it relates to living in the residence halls, we would have anarchy,” she said.

Campbell explained that the number one benefit from living on campus is the convenience in terms of proximity to classes. Living in McMahon “allows students to develop meaningful contact as they develop and cultivate friendships based on the fact that they are living together and studying together in a close setting,” Campbell said.

Anna Michael FCLC ’17 thinks the convenience of McMahon is worth it; she is only minutes away from class or theatre rehearsals. “You don’t even have to walk outside to get to all of your Fordham related obligations,” she said

Sanchez does not feel that moving off-campus made her isolated from her social circle nor academic experiences. “It’s not that hard to head down to Lincoln Center to attend anything,” she said.

However, her most difficult experience with moving off campus was, “adjusting to the fact that I couldn’t wake up five minutes before class started to get to it. You can’t just roll out of bed and you have to be prepared to be at school until sometimes 11 at night.”

Security is often an issue raised when students live off campus. However, Sanchez does not find this to be an issue.

“Personally, I feel really safe. I’ve never had any issues and had no reservations about living here. I’m from Miami, so I am not put off by living in a hispanic community. Everyone is friendly and everyone looks out for people. Like any neighborhood, just don’t be an idiot,” she said.

Caitlin Tango, a licensed real estate salesperson at Crosstown Apartments, said, “Statistically, Washington Heights is one of the safest neighborhood in Manhattan.”

According to DNA info’s Crime and Safety Report, the Heights falls only behind the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Inwood in crimes per capita, ranking as the fourth safest neighborhood in all of Manhattan.

Students that are looking to save money by moving off-campus need to be aware of a few fees, like, broker’s fees, application’s fees, and security deposits.

“The standard agent fee is 15 percent of the annual rent, but most companies will give a student discount for around 12 percent,” Tango said.

No fee apartments are another option. “Essentially, this is when the landlord pays the broker because the landlord needs to rent. This happens more often with luxury apartments. Sometimes, if the landlord pays the fee it’s because they can’t get it rented—a bad sign —or it is built into the rent price,” she said.

Tango recommends students or parents who have the time to look for apartments to search for rentals listed by owner to avoid this added 12-15 percent fee.

“There is also a fee for submitting an application to a landlord. These can vary from $25 to $250, but people should expect to pay an average of $100-$125,” she said.

Other costs to keep in mind if looking to move off campus:

Students should also expect to pay one to two months rent upfront, as well as a security deposit, which is generally also the cost of a months rent.

Utilities are generally included, which cover heat and water bills. Sometimes, heat is run by electricity. This is something potential tenets want to ask landlords in advance because it will increase winter electric bills.

According to Tango, heat in the winter is around $65 for a one bedroom apartment and around $80 in the summer; you can add an extra $20 per additional room to estimate the cost. Internet can cost as low as $29 a month.

Fordham does offer some assistance to students looking for off campus housing.

“The Office of Student Leadership and Community maintains a list of individuals looking for roommates, they allow you to post that you are looking for apartments and they have some information their in terms of listings,” Campbell said.