Posted by: Kate Ashford | August 12, 2010

Going to College…and Living at Home?

Dorm Room

Remember dorm rooms? What if you lived at home instead?

When I went to college, I moved to a city roughly three hours away from my parents. I lived in the dorms my freshman year, and after that I lived with roommates in off-campus apartments. I was lucky to be able to do so—I lived in Virginia and went to an extremely affordable in-state university.

But I also didn’t go to college in the midst of a recession. In fact, the job market was so crazy when I graduated that I’d already had a position lined up for six months. (Remember those days?)

College is more expensive now and money’s tighter, so families are doing what they can to cut costs, according to the third annual “How American Pays for College” report. About three-quarters of families reduced spending to make school more affordable and nearly half bumped up work hours or earnings.

But the most interesting statistic is this one: Some 43 percent of families say their student lived at home.

Well, obviously that saves money. If your in-college kid is still living in her bedroom upstairs, you’re saving a bundle on housing costs. And unless you live in a city that’s home to a large university of some kind, you might also be saving cash by sending her to community college for a couple of years.

Frankly, I think that’s smart. Experts have long suggested that families send kids to community college for a few years before transferring (and getting the degree) from the bigger school to save money.

But I also wonder whether these students are missing out on the college experience, which often serves as the stepping stone to an independent adult life without Mom and Dad. College is a nice little microcosm where you can learn to pay bills on time and juggle multiple responsibilities. Oh, and maybe cook once in a while.

But I also don’t believe in going miles into debt for an experience, and if living with Mom and Dad is what gets you a college degree without saddling you with $50,000 in student loans, then that’s what you do.

If you had it to do over again, would you live with your parents while you went to a local college?

(Image from Wheelock College Archives on Flickr.)


  1. What if you lived at home instead with Home Instead?

  2. Couldn’t resist

  3. This topic just came up with a coworker this morning. His daughter is begrudgingly going to a community college and living at home, but he knows she doesn’t understand or want to listen to the expense of going away.

    I look back at my undergrad experience and know it was simply priceless, but I also graduated without debt for both my undergrad and grad school.

    Now I look at my family’s only SL debt (husband’s JD) that hovers just under $60 grand and worry about how the small payment will just linger and linger. I know, we’ll pay it off ahead, but we could be paying it off as we approach 50! And the worse part–he had a free ride but spent a year in Texas and lost the offer:(

    • Good for your coworker for sticking to his guns! I think a lot of parents give in and end up with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans because their kids want to go to super pricey schools.

  4. I’m a college freshmen, living at home while going to college. And while it saves thousands of dollars, I’m completely miserable. Its impossible to meet new people, especially at the university i attend. And even though its a prestigious, I’m opting for community college next year because my school doesnt have a good attitude towards commuters.

    I’ve tried several things to meet people. I joined the marching band, but I got hazed and left. I tried intramural sports but had no way to connect with anyone. I have no problem with my parents, they are really flexible about curfew etc… They want me to have that “college experience” as well… we just can’t afford it.

    I have no friends, I cry often and would rather take on the debt than be this miserable. I just dont want to do that to my parents, because nowadays that debt can’t be in MY name, its in my PARENTS name.

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