A Mercury News report published this week found the gap between student living expenses on and off campus was the largest of any other California university at UC Merced.
The report found the cost to live on campus at the University of California’s youngest campus in Merced is nearly double what it costs to live off campus.
The Mercury News found that Bobcats paid $15,923 for on-campus room and board, compared to $7,987 to live off campus.
The report noted that unpredictable and rising living expenses are pricing some students out of higher education.
Officials with UC Merced told the Sun-Star that students living on campus don’t just pay for room and board – other services are factored into the cost.
“Overall, comparing off-campus and on-campus housing is like comparing apples and oranges,” said Brenda Ortiz, a spokeswoman for the university. “When you live on campus, you are getting much more than a room. You have support staff, resources, planned activities, a meal plan and much more.”
According to Martin Reed, executive director for student affairs and auxiliaries at UC Merced, there consistently are at least 300 students on the waiting list to live on campus.
“It depends on the academic year but it’s been consistent because lack of housing in Merced especially on the north end (of town),” Reed said. “Most students want to live near campus.”
When only considering on-campus living expenses, UC Merced ranked the fifth highest when combining the UC and California State University systems, ranking higher than San Diego State and UCLA.
On the flip side, Fresno State to the south of Merced and California State University, Stanislaus to the north were the top two cheapest universities for on-campus living, costing about $9,700 each, according to the report.
About 90 percent of UC Merced students receive financial aid, Reed said, that helps with the cost of living whether it be on or off campus. Where UC Merced is placed geographically could also be a factor, he said, because it’s not as convenient.
UC Merced is currently building new residence halls, part of the 2020 project, Reed said, that will add about 1,760 residents to the campus. The rooms will each hold one to three students.
Besides the convenience factor, Reed said, students want to live on campus because there is a lot of support available,. including residence advisers and academic programs that teach students organizational skills, study habits and time management.
“This all happens in the residence halls,” he said. “There’s a lot more support for student success that’s what they’re designed to do, help students transition from high school to college.”
There are also numerous studies that have proven students living on campus do better academically, are more likely to graduate and have a better college experience, Reed said. Waking up and walking to class is more convenient and appealing to students, Reed said, because the alternative would be driving in or taking public transportation that could take 30 minutes to an hour.
“Now it’s so convenient to live on campus and skateboard to class and skateboard home,” he said. “They really want convenience.”
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486