The Best (And Worst) College Towns For Student Renters

Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management is located in Nashville, which according to is one of the top college towns for student renters based on off-campus cost of living.

When choosing a college, prospective students must consider a whole host of factors: Academic reputation, rigor, in-state or out-of-state tuition, programs offered, and more than a dozen others. As tuition continues to rise at campuses across the country, cost-of-living offers no reprieve. Inflation, a supercharged housing market that is just now starting to cool, and a tight rental market have pushed housing costs upward in many of the most attractive college markets.

To add context to the precarious position young college students often find themselves in,, a web platform connecting homeowners with local improvement and repair services, crunched data to rank the best, and worst, college towns for student renters.

So where are rents lowest – and highest? Your intuition is likely correct: States already facing housing shortages and sky-rocketing mortgages are the hardest on the student renters. (Here’s looking at you California, New York, and Hawaii.) In these states, the average off-campus room and board runs an average of up to $15,000 a year. In comparison, less populated states such as Idaho, Utah, and Main average half of that – between $7,000 and $8,000.


In 2021, the national median rent rose 17.6%, and it is up 6.7% year-over-year in the first half of this year. Meanwhile, top colleges are expected to increase their tuition an average of 3.7% next year while more than half of college graduates expect to have trouble paying back their student loans.

“Price pressures from rent are especially challenging for college students, especially first generation college students and students from low-income families. Students often lack the rental history or savings for deposits that help them get approved for a rental,” writes Lauren Thomas for “Academic obligations may limit students’ ability to work and earn money to put toward rent, so they frequently take out more in loans to cover living costs in addition to tuition and fees.”

As the cost of school creeps higher, the number of degrees awarded in the U.S. has increased nearly 56% since 2002, and 25% in the past decade. In 2002-2003, just over 2 million students earned college degrees while more than 3 million earned them in 2019-2020.

“The 72 million member Millennial generation first reached college in 2000 and have since become the most educated generation in U.S. history. Enrollments of nontraditional students also grew following the Great Recession as more adults pursued new careers or additional credentials to be competitive in a difficult job market,” Thomas writes.


Porch ranked more than 300 metro areas on cost of living for student renters. Of these, 12 had average costs below $10,000 per year while three were below $8,000.

“Many of these locations for affordable student housing also have cost of living below the national average, making them potentially good options for cost-conscious students when choosing where to live,” Thomas writes.

For its ranking, crunched data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to identify the best and worst cities for college renters. Researchers calculated the weighted average of off-campus housing (not including students who live with family members) for the 2020-2021 academic year. Only metro areas with populations of at least 100,000 were included, and the analysis excluded schools in which a majority of students attended remotely.

The map below shows the states where national average rents are the lowest and highest and, by extension, where it is generally better or worse for college renters. Click to the next page to see’s best and worst metro areas for college renters.

See’s full report here.



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