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What to consider when moving off campus

February 24, 2022
<p>The outside of Block 36 apartment complex. Taken on Feb. 14, 2022.</p>

The outside of Block 36 apartment complex. Taken on Feb. 14, 2022.

Photo by Jared Osborne | The State News

Moving into a college dormitory is the first step of college life. Before classes begin, students immerse themselves in campus life by getting to know their roommates and settling into a completely new environment. After about a year or so, many students want to live off-campus in an apartment or house.

The rate to stay in a residence hall can add up over time, depending on your grade level, major and where you decide to live. For example, the rate to live in a standard double room with a silver dining plan would be $10,676 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, according to the LiveOn website.

In December 2021, MSU reinstated the two-year on-campus requirement. This means students will have to stay on campus for their first two years before they can move off campus.

“The two-year live on requirement was reinstated with the idea that this would be another way we could improve graduation rates and better support student success,” associate communications director for Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, Bethany Balks said.

According to an MSU study, students who stayed on campus their first two years saw a 2.5% increase in graduation rates than those who only stayed on campus for one year. In addition, the university’s neighborhood model and access to resources contributed to a higher graduation rate, from 77% to 81% over the last five years.

“They found with second-year students, those who lived on campus in their second year were statistically significantly more likely to graduate from MSU,” Balks said. “They were more likely to graduate within six years.”

For some, living on campus can be a great way to connect to campus life. Students are easily connected to resources like neighborhood advising, academic help rooms and much more.

“Having a meal plan and things like that, I’m not forced to have to constantly try to find ways to cook all the time,” computer science junior Dorian Smalley said. “Being on-campus puts me a lot closer to a lot of the classes I need to get to.”

Smalley said being on campus maximizes his time management skills, which plays a critical role in his major. Now, he is deciding whether or not he will have to move off campus because of space concerns.

For others, living on campus gives them the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

“Coming to a university that's this big, it can be hard to make friends,” criminal justice senior Madison Pride said. “That’s how I met a lot of my friends and (found) a community and things.”

Pride works as a resident assistant for the university. She said staying on campus saved her a lot of money because room and board are covered in her job.

For sophomores who didn't have their first-year on-campus experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spartan Navigator is a program specifically designed to support them during their time at MSU.

Associate Director of REHS Coree Newman Coronado said the program is in partnership with other resources on campus and it continues to help second-year students build on their experiences.

“We’re excited to kind of move it into a more forward-facing position for students next year,” Newman Coronado said.

Regardless, moving off campus is a step many students take over their time at MSU.

Here are some things to consider before making the switch.

Financial aid

Financial aid is awarded when students file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Students can get applicable grants, scholarships and federal loans to help cover the standard cost of attendance set by the college.

Eligibility for aid does not change whether or not a student lives off campus. However, because students are not billed room and board, which would be included in their cost of attendance, this cost will be refunded to help with rent, food and other expenses.

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Students may talk to a financial aid advisor to learn more about off-campus living. The financial aid office is located in room 252 in the Student Services Building.

Signing leases

MSU offers a list of approved landlords and housing that previous students have rented. This would be a great place to start when searching for off-campus housing.

Students should read their lease very carefully and thoroughly before signing. Common questions to ask before signing include:

  • What happens if I default on a lease?

  • How will rent be divided between roommates?

  • What are the rules?

Newman Coronado said paying close attention to things like termination guidelines, late and monthly fees, deposits and other policies is important. If students have questions, they should contact either the property manager or the landlord.

Since it may be students' first time renting, they might need a cosigner — someone who would be responsible for rent if the student falls behind. Cosigners have to have a good credit score, a solid repayment history and no prior evictions.

If a student doesn’t have a cosigner, they may need to pay a security deposit, which is usually 1.5 times their monthly rent, though this can vary depending on the rental property.

Students are encouraged to visit the Associated Students of Michigan State University’s lease review service, which is provided through their legal services. Students can schedule an appointment with legal services on their website.


Another important thing to consider when moving off-campus is roommates.

“Your community includes all kinds of folds from all different walks of life,” Newman Coronado said. “Some that might be connected with MSU (and) some that just live in the same space.”

When they move, students usually have the option to choose their roommates. But, make sure to choose them wisely. Students will want to make sure that they’re compatible. This includes being upfront about study habits, schedules and leisure activities.


When a student stays on-campus, most expenses are covered in their financial aid along with a dining plan. Repairs and maintenance are covered in this cost. However, off-campus housing can be very costly.

“I think something with on-campus living is our bills, or what they pay for room and board, it's a pretty all-inclusive fee,” Balks said.

Balks said a first-time renter should really look at the financial piece.

When a student moves off-campus, they can expect to pay for things like repairs, maintenance and utilities, such as electricity and internet service. In some places, these expenses are included in their monthly rent.

Budgeting plays a key role in managing bills. When  creating a budget, students should take into account:

  • Utilities (i.e., internet/cable, electricity, gas)

  • Phone

  • Household needs

  • Personal needs/wants

  • Educational costs

Balks said that if upperclassmen are curious about on-campus space, the Housing Assignments Office is considering a waitlist to those who are interested. The waitlist would be available for the on-campus apartments like 1855 Place and University Village. This waitlist hasn't been finalized.

This story is part of our 2022 spring housing guide. Read the full issue here.


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