You may know that Austin's rapid growth is rapidly making it an expensive place to live. Home prices have jumped in recent years, and rents have followed suit. And, as college students head back to campus, they're feeling the pinch as well.
The cost to be a college student is steadily on the rise. But when housing is much higher than the cost of tuition, some families can’t afford to make the sacrifices.
Christian Henley is about to start her senior year at the University of Texas at Austin. She lives in the west campus neighborhood, within walking distance to everything on the 40 Acres.
“Obviously the closer you are to UT’s campus the better accommodations you get, and the better access you’re going to have to campus, but at the same time you are definitely going to be paying more, which isn’t exactly fair,” she said.
But Henley pays the price because she doesn't have a car. By the time she finishes school, she says she'll end up paying more for rent then she will for her diploma. West Campus realtor Sam Njigua says the area's popularity help keep prices higher than other student options.
"The market basically determines the price,” he said. “They compare with what’s sold most recently, and then they price it based off that.”
The average two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in West Campus goes for about $1,900 a month. Larger ones that fit four students are $2,800 – with utilities and parking not included. But, Njigua says, it's a price people are willing to pay.
“There’s a lot of rich parents, to be honest,” he said. “They can afford that.”
Not everyone gets help from their parents. For students who can't afford West Campus, there are several other clusters of private student housing around town – from Far West to North Red River to Lake Austin Boulevard and Riverside Drive, a cluster where rents can be up to a third less than West Campus.
But rates are starting to climb.
Robin Davis works for Austin Investor Interests, and studies the market trends of apartments. She’s noticed that housing for college students has peaked in North and Southeast Austin, where rent tends to be lower.
“Whenever I talk to locators and management companies, they’re beginning to see a lot more tenants moving toward the outer lying areas that are either on the shuttle [route] or somewhat near the school. But we’re also seeing moving in the northern direction,” she said.
Private apartments may be too much for come students, so they turn to dorms. Most UT-Austin dorms go for $10,223 a semester. Michael Edwards is the Director of Business for the Division of Housing and Food. He says you have to consider what that pays for.
“Once we explain the all inclusive rate including the meal plan, Bevo Bucks, internet, cable television, air conditioning, electricity, water, trash, custodial, maintenance, desk assistance, obviously the security,” he said. “So, once they understand all the amenities built in, they see the value,” he said.
But, it's a limited value. UT Austin only has about 8,000 dorm rooms, and they’re almost always at capacity.
The cost of living is not declining any time soon. Which means that the amount of debt will be increasing for college students.
Christian Henley says that the loans are motivation for her to have a bright future. She is looking at the debt as a way to keep pushing.