There are many advantages for college students who opt to live on campus. These include the chance to form long-lasting friendships and, according to the American Council on Education, an increased likelihood of achieving better grades than their off-campus counterparts. However, these advantages can come at a cost. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average price for room and board at a public U.S. postsecondary school totaled $9,552 for the 2012-13 academic year. That rate increased to $10,540 for private institutions.
Naturally, cost is a key consideration for students when choosing the campus they’re going to call home for the next few years. Fortunately, though, learners needn’t break the bank or compromise in terms of opting for a charming school campus on which to live. Indeed, the following 30 schools boast exceptionally inviting residence halls that cost less than the respective 2012-13 national average when board is also included. Moreover, these dorms are not only pretty but have exciting social scenes and outstanding amenities to boot – offering, as a result, the best-value college experience that money can buy.
At the time of writing, the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) most up-to-date figures for average room and board rates at U.S. colleges and universities covered the 2012-13 academic year. Combining the average room rate and the average board rate from this table provided the baseline figure for affordable accommodation in public and private schools throughout the country.
A long list of potential entries was then drawn up by examining lists such as Niche’s 2015 ranking of the 100 “Best Dorms” in the country, CollegeXpress’ “The Very Best College Dorms” and The Fiscal Times’ “10 Public Colleges with the Most Luxurious Dorms.” Only those colleges with affordable room and board rates were included on the long preliminary list.
In order to determine if a school was charming or inviting enough to secure a place on our final list, their residence halls were individually investigated, taking factors such as aesthetic appeal, amenities/facilities and each dorm’s social scene into account.
30. Alabama State University – Montgomery, Alabama
With 13 options to select from, students enrolling at Alabama State University are spoiled for choice when it comes to campus dorms. They include the appropriately named New Facility I and II – the Montgomery campus’ latest dorm additions. Upper-class male and female students can make themselves at home at the 64,500-square-foot Martin L. King, Jr. Hall and 65,000-square-foot Bessie S. Estell Hall respectively, which both accommodate recreation areas. Elsewhere, female foodie students are well served by women-only Charles Johnson Dunn Tower, which is right next to the campus dining hall. Moreover, as women students move through university life, they can also set up camp at Bibb Graves Hall – the college’s landmark residence hall thanks to its monumental bell tower. The estimated cost of undergraduate accommodation, meanwhile, clocks in at just $5,422 for the 2014-15 academic year.
29. Luther College – Decorah, Iowa
New students concerned about the potentially daunting atmosphere of an unfamiliar college residence hall needn’t worry at Iowa’s Luther College, as its freshman dorms were designed with relaxation, and fun, in mind. Brandt Hall, Olson Hall and Ylvisaker Hall, for example, all feature study spaces, recreational lounges, wellness floors and quiet floors, which are generally available for learners wishing to focus on studying rather than partying during their time in Decorah. Whichever living arrangement suits students best, though, they all end up paying the same favorable rate for room and board. In 2014-15 it came to $7,090 – almost $2,500 cheaper than learners typically paid on average in the U.S. in 2012-13.
28. Meredith College – Raleigh, North Carolina
The Raleigh, North Carolina campus of Meredith College has collegiate charm to spare, offering grand architecture at every turn, as well as a lake, a forest and a fruit-filled “edible landscape.” Indeed, its seven on-campus dormitories, located in the northeast of the campus’ grounds, are equally appealing. Freshmen will find themselves in the school’s Poteat, Faircloth or Heilman dorms, which all offer air conditioned rooms, cable TV, Wi-Fi and free laundry facilities. Considering the campus’ elegance, it’s perhaps surprising to learn that living there works out as more than $1,000 cheaper than the typical 2012-13 private university dorm price. For the 2014-15 academic year, for example, room and board at Meredith cost just $9,516.
27. Auburn University at Montgomery – Montgomery, Alabama
In 2013 Auburn University at Montgomery added Warhawk Hall to its student residences – and the contemporary building doesn’t fail to impress. Featuring furnished apartments, lounge areas and recreational spaces, the dorm is certainly conducive to socializing – though those requiring some solitude can opt for a single room instead. However, despite Warhawk Hall having the priciest tariff on the school’s Alabama campus, room and board, for a single room during the 2014-15 academic year, was still almost $300 below the 2012-13 nationwide average. Even more affordable rooms are available at the other two residence halls – a quad at The Courtyards, for example, set learners back just $4,640 for the 2014-15 academic year, inclusive of meals. Particularly sociable freshmen may be interested in the school’s Learning Comes First Freshman Forum, which groups first-year students together to live and work as a team, with the added benefit of a complimentary laptop each.
26. Radford University – Radford, Virginia
The lush campus and outdoorsy surroundings of Virginia’s Radford University are charming enough to entice new students. Add grand dorm buildings and affordable prices to the mix and learners should feel incredibly pleased with their choice of school. Indeed, the typical cost of room and board here for out-of-state undergraduate learners in 2014-15 was just $8,630 – around $900 less than the 2012-13 national average. Students can explore and enjoy the many common rooms of stately Norwood Hall, or admire the majestic exteriors of Moffett Quad’s residence halls. Elsewhere is Muse Hall, which is among the most popular dorms and accommodates around 950 students. There, freshmen can mix with students at every stage of their university careers, either in the dorms, the dining area or the gym.
25. Wheaton College – Wheaton, Illinois
There are four remarkable residence halls to choose from at Illinois’ Wheaton College, and, as Niche.com puts it, students “really can’t go wrong” with any of them. Williston Hall is the most charming of the four, dating back to 1895, while McManis-Evans Hall boasts community ping pong and pool tables. Fischer Hall and Smith-Traber Hall, meanwhile, are said to be the most sociable dorms on campus, with the former’s lobby area and co-ed lounges serving as excellent gathering spaces. All four dorms, though, are exceptionally affordable. For the 2014-15 academic year, room and board at Wheaton set learners back around $8,820 – $732 less than the 2012-13 national average.
24. New College of Florida – Sarasota, Florida
Students heading to Sarasota’s New College of Florida may find themselves in the school’s magnificent Pei Residence Halls. Designed by celebrated architect I.M. Pei in the mid-1960s, the modernist-style dorms were created with communities in mind. The halls are complemented by the royal palms of Palm Court, around which they are orientated. Furthermore, student life largely revolves around that courtyard, especially during graduation or at Halloween. And not only does the site host impromptu weekly dances, but it’s also the setting for larger university-wide celebrations. Such goings-on belie New College’s affordable living costs: for the 2014-15 academic year, students paid $8,687 for a double room and meals, which is comfortably cheaper than the U.S. average for 2012-13.
23. Grand Valley State University – Allendale, Michigan
There are three kinds of freshman living options at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University: traditional, apartment or suite. Whichever they choose, though, students needn’t worry about breaking the bank. In fact, traditional room and board for 2014-15 could be secured for just $8,200 – a price that’s $1,352 less than the 2012-13 national average. Still, that low price doesn’t necessarily equate to compromised amenities. Moreover, apartments are located in some of the charming Allendale campus’ most modern buildings, where resident advisors ensure that the social scene there is buzzing. Learners can also opt for one of the school’s living-learning communities, allowing them to connect with like-minded peers studying the same subject or with similar interests.
22. The University of Tampa – Tampa, Florida
One student at The University of Tampa (UT) believes that the school’s accommodation “is way above average in terms of typical college housing.” Not, though, in terms of price, as full-time undergraduate room and board at the Florida school cost on average just $9,624 for 2014-15 – around $900 less than the 2012-13 national average at private universities. Such a low price could land first-year learners a place at one of six popular dorms, which feature lounges, game rooms, cable TV, Wi-Fi and comfortable, furnished bedrooms complete with air conditioning. Meanwhile, freshmen hoping to impress visiting friends and family with enviable views across downtown Tampa ought to find themselves a place in The Boathouse or McKay Hall. School housing also includes five upperclass halls and an off-campus residential site.
21. Washburn University – Topeka, Kansas
While each of the dorms at Kansas’ Washburn University oozes charm and elegance from the outside, there’s also plenty to keep students happy on the inside. Take the Living Learning Center, for example. Its exterior gives way to multiple classrooms, study rooms, communal spaces and lounges, as well as a peaceful reading space and a games room. The Center is also connected to Memorial Union, which hosts various student activities and is used for dining. Moreover, the school’s Topeka campus features residences Kuehne Hall and West Hall, which look more like extended townhouses than typical college dorms, and stylish Washburn Village is available for more experienced students. Incredibly, the cost of all this charm was a mere $6,541 for the 2014-15 academic year.
20. University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
The University of Georgia is so keen on making first years feel at home that the school has devised a “look book” of dorm room personalization ideas. Its suggestions include repositioning the bed ahead of social gatherings, utilizing shabby chic décor for a touch of home and making things personal with the addition of family photos. The university’s Athens campus actually boasts 22 residence halls, which fall into one of eight distinct “communities.” Impressively, all rooms feature air conditioning and cable TV, among other amenities. Collectively, the halls can house over 7,600 students, with numerous communal spaces offering ample opportunity to make lasting friendships. Another plus point is undoubtedly the price, with typical 2014-15 room and board fees for both Georgia resident and out-of-state undergrads safely below the 2012-13 national average, at $9,246.
19. Lawrence University – Appleton, Wisconsin
For the 2013-14 academic year students paid just $3,975 – over $1,300 less than the previous year’s overall national average – for a double room in one of Lawrence University’s seven principal residence halls. Saving money, though, isn’t the sole advantage of living on the Appleton, Wisconsin campus, as the dorms themselves are unique homes away from home. Take Ormsby Hall, for example, which was built in 1889 and features a grand exterior matched by elegant indoor decor that’s sure to make any visiting friends green-eyed with jealousy. Sage Hall, furthermore, is known for its regal archways and pillars. Kohler Hall and Hiett Hall, on the other hand, have more sociable settings; the former hosts an eclectic assortment of traditional activities and offers events throughout the school year, while the latter hosts a jam-packed weekly calendar.
18. Northwestern Oklahoma State University – Alva, Oklahoma
Should students choose the most expensive housing and meal options at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, they’d still only be looking at a total yearly cost of $5,550 – $4,000 less than the average room and board price across the country for 2012-2013. That leaves plenty of leftover cash for students to equip their dorm rooms with discounted customizable essentials and accessories, as well as anything else needed to channel the reassuring comforts of home. These rooms are located in the Alva-based school’s four student dorms – not that learners are likely to spend a great deal of time sequestered inside them. After all, every hall has recreation rooms and access to outside basketball courts, a beach volleyball area and tennis courts.
17. Lee University – Cleveland, Tennessee
Accommodation at Lee University is so inexpensive that students can afford to take advantage of the school’s unlimited meals package and still pay nearly $2,000 less than the 2012-13 national average for room and board. Just as outstanding is the choice of accommodation at the Cleveland, Tennessee school. There are 16 single-sex residences, as well as a non-traditional and family housing hall option, available, but perhaps the two most exciting are Bowdle/O’Bannon Halls and Medlin Hall. Both feature stately exteriors that are befitting of the school’s reputation, while each also offers an impressive range of recreational opportunities – namely ping pong and pool tables and lounges equipped with large-screen TVs. Indeed, one student believes that Medlin Hall is “where it’s at” and that it’s impossible to “get a [similar] brotherhood anywhere else on campus.”
16. University of Northwestern – St. Paul – St. Paul, Minnesota
At just $8,780, room and board at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul for the 2014-15 academic year priced comfortably under the 2012-13 national average. Arguably the most inviting of the school’s eight dorms is Akenson Hall, the latest addition to its Minnesota campus. Though it offers a similarly high level of comfort to the other residences, Akenson has added features like a hot tub, a swimming pool and a gym – perfect for de-stressing after finals week. The school’s Hartill, Knutson and KnuHa dorms aren’t far behind in the charming stakes, though, and are all located next to an amenities-packed student center and a sand volleyball court. In fact, each of the halls is ideally situated, as the tranquil campus is adjacent to a scenic lake.
15. Mississippi State University – Mississippi State, Mississippi
Mississippi State University made The Fiscal Times’ 2012 “10 Public Colleges with the Most Luxurious Dorms” list. This was partly because living in Hurst Hall – which was built in 2006 – is “like being in a hotel,” at least according to two students. Located in the Zacharias Village community, along with similarly stylish residence halls Ruby, North and Griffis, Hurst is one of 15 on-campus dorms. In 2012 freshman Hunter Myrick took up residence in South Hall – since renamed Mary Lyn and Niles R. Moseley Hall. When he moved in, he told The Columbus Dispatch that his friends “are probably going to hate [him]” when they see his room. Fortunately, such indulgence doesn’t come with a hefty price tag: the average cost of room and board at Mississippi State University was just under $9,000 for undergraduates for 2014-15.
14. Union University – Jackson, Tennessee
Student apartments at Jackson, Tennessee’s Union University are scattered between several residential complexes, but wherever learners end up they’re guaranteed to enjoy their own private bedroom. Students moving into one of the school’s on-campus apartments will also take pleasure in numerous sociable traditions, many of which revolve around food – namely the meet-and-greet-style snacking day and free cuisine during finals. All, though, can benefit from the sports facilities located at Bowld Students Commons, which also houses music and games rooms and television areas. What’s more, room and board for an apartment at the school for 2012-13 cost students just $9,180 – almost $1,400 less than that year’s private university national average.
13. Oklahoma Panhandle State University – Goodwell, Oklahoma
Aggie Apartments is the most contemporary dorm on Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s attractive Goodwell campus, and as such it’s popular with students. Fully furnished and equipped with modern essentials like free internet and cable TV, Aggie Apartment rooms include access to a centralized gazebo area with a pair of barbecues, as well as several nearby sporting amenities. Almost as appealing is co-ed residence Holter Hall, where there’s enough happening to keep students busy; though even when it’s quiet there’s always two TV rooms and ping pong and foosball to fall back on. Whichever residence strikes students’ fancy, though, it’s unlikely that there’ll be complaints about the price. Room and board at Aggie Apartments, the costliest option, comes to just $6,992 per year – over $2,500 cheaper than the 2012-13 national average.
12. Brigham Young University-Idaho – Rexburg, Idaho
Students arriving at Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-Idaho) from fall 2015 will have the option of rooming at Centre Square, a new development on the school’s Rexburg campus. Featuring generously sized apartments, green spaces and newly minted traditions like complimentary pizza and volleyball contests, the complex isn’t only inviting, it’s likely to also be affordable if costs are in line with BYU-Idaho’s existing four female and two male dorms. For the 2014-15 academic year, room and board at those halls – which boast features like indoor sports courts, barbecues and libraries of movies and games – ranges from a staggeringly low $2,700 to a highly competitive $4,800.
11. Purdue University Calumet – Hammond, Indiana
For the 2014-15 academic year, the estimated cost of room and board for undergraduate residents at Indiana’s Purdue University Calumet (PUC) was $8,075 – almost $1,500 cheaper than the 2012-13 national average. Such value will no doubt attract students to one of the Hammond school’s two dorms: Griffin Hall and Peregrine Hall. The stylish accommodations are situated close to PUC’s Fitness and Recreation Center and offer amenities such as vending machines and study areas. One perk that might not be found at other colleges, though, is free movies broadcast direct to learners’ television sets, courtesy of university organization Residence Life Cinema. Moreover, events taking place inside the dorms – namely games nights, ice cream parties and dances – are bound to make students feel right at home.
10. California Baptist University – Riverside, California
The Cottages is arguably the most picturesque community at Riverside’s California Baptist University (CBU). Featuring charming, courtyard-facing patios, the complex’s layout was clearly designed with socializing in mind, whether it’s a late-night card game or a serious team homework session. The Cottages is also located at the heart of the campus, making it an ideal choice for those wishing to be based close to class. Similarly appealing amenities are available at men-only freshman residence Smith Hall and its women-only equivalent Simmons Hall, while those residing at The Colony, which isn’t open to freshmen, can take advantage of a pool and other sports facilities. With room and board totaling just $7,890 for the 2014-15 academic year, CBU students paid approximately $1,500 less than the 2012-2013 national average.
9. Cedarville University – Cedarville, Ohio
Student accommodation and meals at Ohio’s Cedarville University totaled roughly $6,350 for the 2014-15 academic year – a figure that’s a staggering $4,000 less than the 2012-13 national private university average. What’s more, as well as affordability, the school offers a choice of 20 on-campus dorms. And if the school accommodation’s current A+ rating on Niche.com is anything to go by, students appear to be very happy with their digs. Arguably the best of the bunch is The Hill, which was constructed in the mid-1970s and renovated in 2011. Its glass-fronted exterior gives way to comfortable community spaces and study areas, while a barbecue is on hand for impromptu get-togethers. Furthermore, The Hill has several sociable traditions, including a football match against rival dorm Lawlor Hall and the Dishonors Day Awards.
8. Winona State University – Winona, Minnesota
Perhaps the most inviting aspect of living at Winona State University’s Lourdes Hall is its West Campus location, which provides students with a sense of returning home after a hard day hitting the books. Not only does Lourdes feature games facilities and study areas, but it also includes a well-equipped fitness facility and a temperature-controlled indoor pool. Meanwhile, those feeling hungry after a workout session can head over to the cafeteria to enjoy a bite to eat. Of course, the main campus also offers ample and similarly lively student housing options, and the estimated price for a room and meals at the Minnesota school totals less than $8,000 a year.
7. Florida Gulf Coast University – Fort Myers, Florida
Students considering Florida Gulf Coast University’s on-campus housing options need look no further than North Lake Village, where a two-bedroom quad is just $4,820 a year and residences are situated along a beautiful 80-acre recreational lake. And if that’s not enough, the cute apartment-like residences also feature a pool, a beach volleyball space and a picnic spot. Those placed elsewhere won’t feel left out, however, as the school’s South Village, which is recommended to freshmen, offers five dorms featuring everything from games rooms and TV areas to movie theaters and gyms. The cost for room and board at the Fort Myers school varies according to which dorm a student ends up in, but the average price for 2014-15 is $9,424 – just below the 2012-13 national norm.
6. Westminster College – Salt Lake City, Utah
CollegeXpress included Utah’s Westminster College on its “The Very Best College Dorms” list – partly, perhaps, because of the Salt Lake City school’s excellent value for money. Indeed, with 2014-15 room and board costs totaling $8,456, it’s eminently affordable for incoming freshmen. Many will call the school’s splendid Hogle and Carleson halls home, with residents at both benefiting from communal lounges and access to an al fresco climbing wall and volleyball court. Indoor fun is a big draw, too – with comedy nights, gigs and free grub all featuring on students’ social calendars. Besides Hogle and Carleson – primarily because most of their residents are under 21 – the school enjoys the distinction of being the only college in the state where alcohol is permitted.
5. Angelo State University – San Angelo, Texas
Unusually, Texas’ Angelo State University features a dorm with its very own movie theater. The San Angelo school’s Texan Hall, which is available to most students, features all the usual mod cons, as well as a modest cinema seating up to 75 moviegoers. Furthermore, sports fans can turn their collective attention to residence hall Centennial Village, which was opened in 2008 and boasts a games room, a space for sand volleyball and an outdoor basketball court. There are five other dorms from which to choose, too. And affordable – the school’s 2014-15 room and board fees totaled just $7,484 – not bad for what one student has described as “some of the finest dorm setups in Texas.”
4. Evangel University – Springfield, Missouri
The half-dozen residence halls at Evangel University blend perfectly with the Missouri school’s picturesque Springfield campus. This aesthetic appeal is matched by the activities taking place within the halls. Burgess Hall, for example, has its own yearly themed dorm party, while Krause Hall hosts an annual wild Christmas celebration known as “the Higgins.” Athletic types, meanwhile, may wish to seek out Scott Hall for its annual arm wrestling contest and Super Bowl party. Suffice to say, there’s always something happening to keep students busy, no matter which hall they opt for. And another aspect that can’t be ignored is the appealingly low cost of room and board. Undergraduate students paid just $7,200 for a double room with meals for 2014-15.
3. Indiana Wesleyan University – Marion, Indiana
Freshmen live in single-sex dorms at Indiana Wesleyan University, and the residence halls to look out for are Bowman House for guys and Evans Hall for girls. Close friendships are bound to be formed in the intimate surroundings of Bowman, where traditional events include house trips, a 1980s-style skate social and a barn party. Evans Hall, which is nearly twice as large in terms of student population, has its own activities, such as its intriguingly named “Evening of Elegance” event. Moreover, there are a further six dorms available to first years, plus eight more for other students – including several cozy lodges. The average cost of room and board for undergraduates at the Marion-based school for 2014-15 was just $7,712 – over $1,800 cheaper than the 2012-13 national average.
2. Taylor University – Upland, Indiana
Most of the eight residence halls at Indiana’s Taylor University offer their own set of activities. Bergwall Hall, for example, hosts a yearly indoor waterslide event, while Swallow Robin Hall residents can take part in a hotly contested annual rock, paper, scissors contest. Wengatz Hall, meanwhile, seems to have the lion’s share of traditions, which include the Wengatz Olympics, Melon and Gourd and a Wild West Week. However, those hoping for a little more privacy can always opt for the university apartments, which offer a more conventional, “real-life” living experience. One thing all residents at the Upland school can benefit from, though, is a great cost of living. The estimated price of room and board for 2014-15 totaled just $8,283 – more than $1,200 less than the 2012-13 national average.
1. University of North Florida – Jacksonville, Florida
The Osprey Fountains housing complex is the place to be for learners who live on campus at Jacksonville’s University of North Florida. For the 2014-15 academic year, students paid less than $8,200 for a six-bed suite there and the school’s recommended meal plan – comfortably below the 2012-13 national average for room and board. And the return on investment is clear for all to see, as the complex’s amenities include a gym and aerobics center, a corner store, a games room and a number of themed spaces, including one charmingly decked out like a 1950s diner. Additionally, the building has outdoor features like a pool, a lazy river and sports facilities. And for those not able to get into Osprey Fountains, there’s always the inviting Osprey Village Apartments or the more traditional Osprey Hall to enjoy.