Social life aside, for many college students and their families, dorms just make good financial sense. During the 2011-2012 school year, the average cost of room and board at college in the U.S. was $9,047; that amounts to just over $1,000 per month [source: Lytle]. In comparison, the 2011 average rent cost for an apartment in the U.S. was $1,020 and rising [source: Yoder]. Keep in mind that most leases for college apartments only last nine months, rather than 12 months for conventional ones.
At most colleges and universities, room and board fees includes all sorts of amenities: a furnished dorm room (often including items like a mini-fridge, microwave, and cable hookup), a meal plan (usually around 20 meals per week in on-campus dining halls), and access to often state-of-the-art recreational facilities like gyms and swimming pools. Compared to off-campus living, even the cost of food alone sans meal plan can make a significant dent in a family's finances, not to mention expenses like transportation.
That's not to say that dorm costs haven't gone up. With consumer technology like iPods and iPhones, portable gaming systems and sleek, minimalist appliances (think mini-fridges and microwaves) becoming mainstays of the back-to-school shopping list, dorms require greater technological capability than ever before. It's no surprise that this added connectivity comes with a price: At the University of Illinois, for example, the cost of room and board on campus jumped almost $3,500 between the years 2000 and 2010 [source: Cohen]. However, even with this increase, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal than a dorm.
And if time really is money, as they say, dorm dwellers are in luck. We'll explore the convenience factor of dorm life on the next page.