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The extra costs of living off campus

The Reef offers off-campus housing for many FGCU students.( EN Photo / Lauren Kummer)

Students may think that living off campus cost less than living on campus.
While that may be true for some students, it is possible that the costs may be similar, or more, to live off campus.
It is important that students understand that they will need to factor in not only their portion of rent, but first and last month’s rent, cost of food, cable, internet, transportation to and from campus, cost of utilities – if they are not included in the rent – laundry costs and furniture.
College students who live off campus find it very hard to manage two things: time and money.
Twenty-nine-year old Mark Doherty is a senior at FGCU majoring in sports management who spent five years at the Fire Academy right after  he left high school. He took a few classes, but did not give it a 100 percent commitment.
His mom obtained her degree at the age of 40, and his dad obtained his degree at the age of 38. Doherty knew that one day he would go back to school to get his degree.
“I’ve always dreamed of having a college degree,” Doherty said. “Having a college degree is something I’ve always wanted. I didn’t want to go through what my parents did, having kids, working full-time, so I wanted to get it done before I started having a family.”
Doherty is a server at Season 52 Restaurant. He works 35 to 40 hours a week and attends school full-time. He pays $1,100 a month for his house in Naples.
There are other students who live off campus who work that many hours a week as well.
FGCU student Spencer Marcantonio, majoring in communication lives in Naples and works 40 hours a week.
“It’s definitely hard, but you have to do what you have to do,” Marcantonio said. “It makes doing my work a lot harder. The days I’m here I do all my school work.”
Students who live in Lehigh, Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Naples have to manage their time well because of the distance they travel for school.
“Scheduling is a big problem for me,” Marcantonio said. “So for me, I have to make sure I get all my classes on two or three days, and I’ll be in school the entire day on those days.”
These students get an average of five or six hours of sleep every day.
“I have to wake an extra hour early,” Camille Marques, a senior majoring in biology said. “Since I know I have to wake up earlier, I go to bed earlier, so that cuts into my studying time.”
With gas prices fluctuating often, these students spend $30-$40 on gas every week. On average, most of them spend $120 a month or more depending on the type of car.
Compared to students who live on campus, off campus students cannot go home during their break time.
“It definitely impacts my studies,” Doherty said. “You know, I study in between class (on his break time).  I just have the motivation to get my work done when I need to get it done, not procrastinate, because that’s the biggest thing.”
Everything is included in the same package for students who live on campus. They don’t worry about light bills or internet bills every month.
“I pay $2,552 for the year,” Kress Estime, an FGCU student and West Lake resident said. “Everything is included. I only have to worry about my phone bill and food.”
Students who live off campus make more money than students who live on campus because they work more and spend more.
Doherty makes $7,000 a month, which sounds like a lot for a college student, but it’s not. He is married and pays for electricity, gas and a phone bill.
“I don’t spend my money on unnecessary things,” Doherty said. “I save up as much as I can, especially in season. I budget everything far in advance, so I always have a plan and know where my money is going and have something to lean back on if needed.”
Budgeting is a challenge for students who live off campus, and some of them pay for their own classes.
Many of these students have no social lives because they spend much of their time working or on campus. By the time they get home, they can’t go out to do anything.
“I don’t have much of a social life,” Juliane Escudero, a senior and nursing major said. “The nursing program requires so much study and clinical so studying with a study group is pretty much my social life.”
Those students cannot afford to eat out regularly or spend on unnecessary things. Mary Moreno, senior, in the nursing program at FGCU said, “I try to go out a couple times a month to have sanity or else I’d probably freak out and not do good in my classes.”
Michelle Santo, a former FGCU student who graduated in 2013 said, “I skipped going out with friends. If I did go out, my limit was $50. I couldn’t go over it, mainly a lot of budgeting, sacrifice, but you get what you give.”
Many of these students cook at home to avoid the headache of not having the money to pay for gas or bills.
“I used to go out to eat a lot,” Kress said. “One day, my roommate told me to cook at home. I cook whenever I’m home, and I do see improvement on my savings account. I save $500, which is a lot for a college student.”
Ultimately, students who live off campus face more challenges in all aspects than students who live on campus.
“Start small, always find what’s more important. Put that before anything else,” Kress said. “Whether it’s eating habits, sleeping habits, work habits, time management, put that first and then work towards the things that you have little time to spend on.”

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