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If the Tuition Doesn’t Get You, the Cost of Student Housing Will (bloomberg.com)
68 points by johnny313 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

> From 2000 to 2017, Austin’s population climbed about 45%, according to the Census Bureau and the City of Austin, as demand for housing contributed to a 72% surge in average rents. West Campus median gross rents outpaced the city as a whole, rising more than 87% in the same period.

As someone who went to a good school in the middle of nowhere, where rent was cheap and we were surrounded by farmland for 50 miles in every direction, I wonder if that's not the more sustainable way to do it.

Like computer science, having a college in a town doesn't require a lot from its location. It doesn't need to be near a river, oil or mineral deposits, etc. People travel there all the time to simply be there.

Going to college in an already large city, many of which have housing affordability problems already, seems to compound the issue. They aren't making any more land for housing near UCLA.

While it can be nice to have lots of cultural and interesting things to do in the town where you go to school, I'm not sure it's really required.

I wonder if this means that schools in smaller "college towns" will be more appealing... although it seems like reputation is everything, and everyone still wants to go to an expensive school thinking it will make a difference in their life, as opposed to getting a similar education with less name recognition, as shown by the article:

> “But I clicked ‘accept’ on my admission anyway,” she says, figuring that attending UT Austin’s lauded journalism school would lead to more internship opportunities and, ultimately, a job after she graduated.

Although maybe this is all just naive thinking. Perhaps this would just end up with the system con-ing them somewhere else. We always find a reason and a way to extract more money from students.

Makes me think you went to UIUC, Purdue or one of the other “near by” universities (I’m near UIUC now). I have an 8 minute commute to campus, where my wife is a grad student. I work near by (similar 8 minute commute). Even on campus rent for a 1 bedroom is $400-$500

Honestly, it’s not just universities... everyone should consider if they really need to be in a large city. While there are some drawbacks (childcare), generally my quality of life is higher and the cost of living is affordable.

> Honestly, it’s not just universities... everyone should consider if they really need to be in a large city. While there are some drawbacks (childcare), generally my quality of life is higher and the cost of living is affordable.

On the flip side, I cant drive so my quality if life has been shit on smaller cities and suburban areas.

Thai food?

2 hour drive for me.

You can make thai food at home. It's fun!

I can and do, but sometimes it is nice to be served, and also not know how much half-and-half you are using to make thai iced teas.

I would more worried about the sugar than cream.

...and surprisingly easy!

It's stuff like that that keeps me away from small towns (except for vacations). Indian and Thai food is too much for me to give up.

The Thai government supports Thai restaurants. Lots of small towns have them.



I was hoping to find a form to signup my area.

There's Thai in Champaign-Urbana.

> schools in smaller "college towns" will be more appealing... We always find a reason

Yes, schools are not fungible. As soon as you think you've thought of some axis to evaluate your options on, like rent affordability, you can always find another that would give you an opposite order of choices, like the quality of the opportunities the program gives you.

Rather than pricing these priorities, there's merit in emotional reasoning. Like maybe getting a student excited for an affordable choice is more important than making the "right" choice.

Maybe this is why, when comparing colleges, many students choose the maximum affordable prestige (i.e., respond to peer pressure, something very emotional). I agree that your line of thinking is helpful, but it can't compete with Internet posts digesting US News rankings; parents trying to one up each other; other students wearing their Harvard and Stanford sweaters to school.

So the question isn't, Can someone get a great education in a small college town? Of course that's true, nobody is going to litigate that with you. The question is, is a measured approach to making those choices fundamentally opposed to the reigning psychology of all the involved consumers?

>Like computer science, having a college in a town doesn't require a lot from its location. It doesn't need to be near a river, oil or mineral deposits, etc.

It needs faculty and faculty generally want to live somewhere with good quality of life and ample job opportunities for their spouse and children.

Unlike students, faculty arent transients, they are in their permanent home.

For CS, internships, part time jobs, industrial speakers, everything, depends on being in a hot area. If you are in a cornfield, then you have none of that, even getting faculty can be challenging. The best schools for CS are in hot tech areas for good reason.

I'm not sure I agree with any of those points. As someone who went to school in a cornfield, I had no trouble landing an internship in NYC. My school also had its own on-campus engineering internships. The faculty was also quite good, since it was a teaching school, as opposed to a research institute.

If I look at some of the top CS programs, some are in hot tech areas, but others are almost responsible for local jobs directly. Specifically, UIUC is in the middle of nowhere. I'm not sure there would be a lot of innovative technology development in Pittsburgh without CMU either.

Finally, I'm going to school for a masters online, and it definitely seems like one path forward. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything learning remotely.

UPitt is in Pittsburgh as well, a top 70 university, not just CMU.

Which online master are you doing?

I'm a little over halfway through Georgia Tech's OMS CS program and really enjoying it. I would recommend it highly.

Cool! How much time do you need to spend there every week on average? I was told by one of my Udacity nanodegree mentors that the workload was enormous and (some) exams very tough. Good luck! ;-)

- UIUC is in the middle of nowhere.

- CMU is in Pittsburgh which isn't really a tech hotbed.

- University of Michigan is an Ann Arbor which is basically just a college town.

- University of Wisconsin is in Madison which isn't a hot area either.

All are great CS schools.

Pittsburg is a city.

U Wisc and U Mich aren't top schools.

They're better than Harvard? [0] I think top 20 would be considered top schools.

[0] https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-science-sch...

Harvard is not a top CS school either. Do you mean MIT?

Pittsburgh has an -h at the end.

Except in California.

Ancestor context is the one in Pennsylvania (CMU <-> Carnegie Mellon University).

- Cornell is in Ithaca, NY (upstate NY, middle of nowhere)

Oof, madison is pretty "hot" these days.

In what sense?

being very expensive

UIUC is in a cornfield. Highly ranked CS school. No problem with internships or speakers. We always had a great job fair.

This is an outlying cornfield though (along with a few others). I think they succeed despite their location.

OK so exactly what local businesses would you intern at - its not like Cambridge (UK) where there are huge numbers of startup's and business.

Why do you need to intern somewhere locally?

A good majority of my coursemates ended up travelling to London (or indeed Cambridge) to take up internships during my time at Warwick - there was no need to be shackled to finding somewhere in Coventry!

Its easier for the uni to build relationships locale and the OP was talking about being several hundred miles at minimum away.

I worked for a professor (in the sociology department, modeling knowledge networks) as an undergrad, getting paid 2x minimum wage as a junior while taking courses. Doing actual programming and CS work (python, websites, databases). As many hours as I wanted, and he was always looking for more help.

For full-time (salaried) internships, I got them at major companies and lived there for a semester, then came back to UIUC.

Cambridge has a lot going on actually, it is the main place Microsoft does R&D in the UK. Oxford is maybe more startup free.

UIUC relies heavily on international students who have no idea its in a cornfield before they attend. On top of that, they have a theory focus.

UTAustin has just joined Georgia Tech and UIUC in offering online MS degrees in CS for $8-22k. Undergrad is still problem though.

UIUC despite being in a cornfield area is the largest supplier of swengs in Silicon Valley. Even early-to-midsize Microsoft was mainly populated by UIUC grads and some well-known companies like YouTube, Tesla, AMD, Oracle etc. have their roots there.

I worked at Microsoft for almost 10 years and never met anyone from UIUC. Amazon has a lot of their grads, however.

I went to UIUC and worked at Microsoft for almost 10 years. I'm sure searching on LinkedIn will find plenty of people who have done the same.

Sure, MSR is also a bit different from MS.

I did not work for MSR.

Except Israel moved their entire Comsec to Beer Sheva in the middle of nowhere.

Technion doesn't count? I thought they were regarded as their national MIT when I visited Haifa some time ago.

You have some good points not sure why you got marked down here

Except for residential students. Living rent-free with parents [0] in Chicagoland and taking the commuter rail into UIC/U Chicago/Northwestern is going to be a lot cheaper than renting an apartment in Champaign-Urbana.

Moving to a major metro area for university doesn't make much sense, but having universities in major metro areas makes a lot of sense.

[0] Admittedly not universally an option, but probably pretty common.

Sustainable for how long? Ann Arbor was a sleepy village in 1837, the university helped to create the city.

That part of Michigan, and adjoining parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are sort of a megacity now though, so the University isn't a main factor these days.

Manhattan, KS had about 50k people when I lived there years ago. It seems to have 52k now. Between students, faculty and staff, the university probably accounts for at least 40% of the population and sometimes over half.

It was one of the best experiences of my life. Terrific little town.


I think Athens, Georgia was about 100k people 40 years or so ago and is now 125k. It is home to UGA, one of the big two universities in the state. It's also a source of some big name bands, like R.E.M.



Manhattan is doing some incredible work in Bio- and Agro- defense research. Some of the best scientists in the world are in Manhattan


> That part of Michigan, and adjoining parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois are sort of a megacity now

The Chicago to Detroit train runs >100 mph and the Toronto to Windsor line is being upgraded to do the same. Earlier this month Amtrak revealed that they are working with Ontario to have service from Chicago to Toronto via Detroit. The railroad tunnel under the Detroit River already exists. It's basically going to be another population corridor that runs parallel to the Bos-Wash corridor with high-speed rail running through the spine. Ann Arbor has a train station on that line, so it will certainly benefit.

Ann Arbor still is a sleepy little college town. It's expensive to live in (1) a nice place (2) within a short walk of the quad, but --- at least a few years ago --- was significantly cheaper than, say, Chicago if you lived a short bus ride away, let alone in Saline or Ypsi.

The Diag?

Isn't a big part of the thrust of the article that walkable housing is becoming less and less affordable? If the university owned a bunch of adjoining vacant land, it would be easy to add housing. But it's more or less land locked.

Is not " lots of cultural and interesting things to do" the point of going to Uni ?

I thought it was learning things and getting a degree.

Oh dear please don't take this the wrong way,I think you have some unlearning to do here, Uni is far far more than just "learning"

> But the dramatic rise in rents also coincides with national developers starting to eye the areas around public universities as a growth market. Real estate companies bulldoze aging buildings to put up the kinds of amenity-rich, luxury apartments that might appeal to upper-middle-class parents looking for a safe, comfortable place for their student to live but which students from lower-income families such as Martinez’s couldn’t possibly afford.

This fundamentally misunderstands how the market works. Consider the counter-factual: had the developers not come in and redeveloped aging structures into modern buildings, those old structures would be just as expensive as the new ones due to a shortage. Yet another piece that demonizes people who actually build homes while not considering what happens when we _dont_ build homes. Just look at SF for what the reality of not building looks like.

Even more so when the new 10+ story luxury apartment complex replaces a single-digit number of existing units, which I'm pretty sure was the case in Ann Arbor. So yes, the new units are luxury units - but there's a lot more of them than before.

I live in Austin. I find it completely baffling that the increase in rent is blamed on dense development in the area west of campus, and not on population growth coupled with the complete lack of any development at all in the area north of campus. Seriously, there is an enormous golf course with tons of one story, single family detached homes within walking distance of 1400$ a month studio apartments. I don't think it's the apartments that are the problem, I think it's the golf course.

Of course, all of these single family detached homes had signs telling you to vote against the most recent proposed change in the city's land development code.

Just imagine how bad the rent would be (for everyone, student or no) if they hadn’t built up West Campus. It is easily the densest neighborhood in Texas, comparable to Queens in terms of population density. The student loan credit supply definitely bumps up rents around any campus, but please.

There is a similar phenomenon at the ucsd campus, which has huge on campus apartment buildings pushed up against multimillion dollar single family homes (on La Jolla Farms Rd).

I went to UT Austin and for me the solution to this problem was:

- buy a cheap, 10-year old car

- live in a pretty decent apartment about 20 miles from campus

- get up at 4:30 AM, drive to campus before rush hour, and do my work in the library

- pack "hiking food" (trail mix, etc.) in my backpack and eat for real at night

It worked out well and my living space was much cheaper and nicer than what was available near campus. Audiobooks for the commute were a plus.

My younger sibling is in college now in her senior year. She was living with my other sibling, who just moved away after graduating from her residency program.

My parents don’t have a lot and my younger sibling was going to take loans this year for housing and food. I’m helping her out with that.

My own controversial thoughts are that higher education in this country is an epic scam. I had degrees in CS and Finance. Aside from 2-3 main courses in each program (algorithms, operating systems, and networks in CS, maybe linear algebra, stat, and diff eq) nothing else prepared me at all for my career. So many courses required to get a number of credits that were a waste of time in hindsight.

Then didn’t help me become a better learner. They didn’t help me evolve past my prejudices. All of that change happened in my career, and all my success with learning skills while I was working. My degree programs may serve some people, but they were too abstract.

My professors generally didn’t care. They existed to do research. Most courses were taught by TAs. I remember in 2010 a finance professor going on about Amazons business model and how it was a company doomed to failure. Most of these educators never worked a day at a company outside of education.

Why did you carry so much prejudice well into your career??

Rent definitely affected my choice of school. With identical offers, I opted for a smaller tech-oriented university over the University of Toronto, which is either the top or one of the top schools in the country. I don't regret it, because rent in Toronto was insane and it's only getting worse. I'd have to commute 90 minutes to my parents' house with no time for a social life, and I'm super lucky to know that I even had that option.

And now rents in the small town are growing. Subdivided houses are torn down for luxury apartments, and with recent cuts to government loans, it might not be affordable for some low-income students.

It sounds like you're describing Waterloo. And as a U of T grad I agree, for many years it was a far more affordable option that was every bit as good (arguably better) for engineering and CS. Sadly Waterloo is suffering from the same insane housing cost inflation as the rest of Southern Ontario now.

You got it. I was lucky to start when it was affordable. The residence fees this year are completely insane. $1000/mo for a single dorm room and even more for a room in a 3-4 bedroom apt. Off-campus housing isn't much better.

To put this in perspective, the key “problem” example in this article is that median rent in a safe, popular neighborhood with relatively new housing stock, in one of the country’s fastest growing cities, is a whopping $916 a month. (And you can still make it less than that if you live with a roommate in a slightly older building)

I went to school at UofM during the described time period (Graduated in 2017, they describe rent increases in 2010-2016) and the question I'd love to see answered is what happened to rents in existing properties when the luxury towers sprouted up. Because of course the new luxury towers are more expensive than an apartment from the 70s - but if the alternative supply hasn't gone up in price or disappeared, it's a bit odd to complain.

And I paid less than $1000 for a 2br adjacent to north campus (split with a roommate, so really $500) that was 5 a minute walk from some dorms, 15 minutes to the campus itself - and that's if you ignored the (pretty frequent) buses. Which makes me even more skeptical of the "no one can afford to live there" narrative...

Definitely a thing. In my midsized city, between new dorms at the state university and new private luxury dorms, the old student ghetto neighborhoods are declining further. Lots of abandoned buildings, as they don’t meet standards for subsidized housing.

Here's one of the companies Ann Arbor properties:


Their cheapest rates (~$1000...) are for double occupancy studio apartments that are about 550 square feet. They are nicely furnished (at least, that's what it says on the sticker, who knows how well the furnishing are kept up).

As a UofM grad and still an Ann Arbor resident, Ann Arbor has significant housing supply issues and a city council elected to effectively keep it that way.

That said, there’s definitely more the university and others could do despite the opposition, and it’s getting more attention. Even as a student splitting a house with 6-8 other people, I was paying at least $800/month. Ann Arbor is not the easiest place to be a commuter into, so students have very few options.

The 5 bedroom I lived in, a few blocks north of central campus, is apparently ~$3100. I think I paid ~$450 for one of the smaller rooms. Certainly not much more than that.

It's even been remodeled.

Willowtree there is ~$1150 for a 2br, unfurnished. Location (north of north campus) kinda sucks for non-engineering students, but not much worse than Northwoods.

Take control of the means of accommodation

I lived in university-run student residence and in student-oriented rentals. The amount of wasted space was unbelievable considering everybody spent the vast majority of their time on campus. We didn't need an 86sqft living room, it just filled up with garbage. I couldn't find an apartment with just bedrooms, a tiny kitchen and a bathroom.

What I really wanted was one of these tiny apartments [0]. Build a whole apartment of these near campus, students only sleep at home anyway, and sometimes not even that. My univeristy is building a new residence and it has the same 3-5 bedrooms to a giant apartment with a living room.

I wonder what's the main barrier to building a lot of tiny single student apartments. Is it the municipal regulations, are they not economical or did research show that students actually want living rooms?

EDIT: Just look at the size of these living rooms. I've been in so many of these apartments and they're almost always full of boxes and trash.

- http://www.rez-one.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MG_6020.jpg

- http://www.rez-one.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/MG_5991.jpg

- https://uwaterloo.ca/housing/sites/ca.housing/files/uploads/...

- https://uwaterloo.ca/housing/sites/ca.housing/files/styles/i...

- https://uwaterloo.ca/housing/sites/ca.housing/files/styles/i...

- https://static.wixstatic.com/media/29eef9_c0378e178fda4f0b84...

0. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYVJbupG3Xg

Kitchens and bathrooms are expensive components to an apartment. Arranging the living space so that those are shared significantly drives down the cost of construction. dorm rooms with a shared floor wide bathroom probably achieve the same space efficiency as a 5 bedroom shared apartment with a bathroom and living room, with the added benefit that it will be easier to sell the building as apartments in the future should the need arise.

I wouldn't mind a shared bathroom or kitchen, but I don't understand the massive living rooms. My guess is it makes the unit more marketable to higher income students that in a lower volume can pay more in total for a given plot of land.

> Is it the municipal regulations

The answer to these questions is almost always "it's the law." Most cities have habitability requirements that mandate minimum sizes and required rooms. What'll end up happening, as happens here in SF, is that the residents will throw up a temporary wall in the living room to split the rent further.

The answer lies somewhere in https://library.municode.com/tx/austin/codes/code_of_ordinan...

During my undergrad I bunked with 5 other guys and the rent was $100 per person. I think if you can manage for 1-2 years like this then you can organize your life better once you have some money saved up.

I spent $400 / month for a bed in a living room.

Ugh I was always under the impression that Texas has lower real estate prices than California due to more liberal building permits. But it is very bad in both places in big cities:

Austin: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ATNHPIUS12420Q

San Francisco: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/ATNHPIUS06075A

Texas doesn't have onerous zoning, it just has onerous building requirements (that apply everywhere). Setbacks and so on.

I don't think that is very meaningful? First link is Austin rents today relative to to 1995, and second link is SF rents today relative to 2000. Both have gone up a ton relative to where they were, but one of them started out a lot lower than the other...

Well it is meaningful. A more liberal approach to building permits should result in slower price appreciation (as more of the demand will soak into brand new real estate supply). And it clearly doesn't appreciate more slowly, which means the overall approach isn't more liberal. (In big cities.)

That isn’t necessarily true. E.g. if the precious price 20 years ago was below the cost of building multistory housing today (especially given rising local construction labor costs), the price will go up even with unlimited building permits.

austin is the california of texas

That would explain the prices.

What's Marfa?


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