As on-campus housing rates and meal plan costs increase, students are deciding to move off campus for lower living costs but are finding themselves trapped in a fiscal dilemma due to the rising cost of rent in the Hattiesburg area.
Some students feel driven to seek more affordable housing alternatives, whether they are moving off campus or switching from one apartment to a cheaper one.
The prices for on-campus room and board have risen in recent years. In 2010, this average cost rose from $8,000, according to Forbes. When housing on campus is more than the cost of tuition, many students no longer value the convenience of walking to class everyday.
According to the 2012 Trends in College Pricing report from CollegeBoard, the average cost for room and board at public four-year institutions was $9,205. Students who have the responsibility of financing their undergraduate education have to closely pay attention to costs.
As the community grows, so do rental rates. Rates last May were up 3.5 percent from a year earlier, the U.S. Labor Department reported. Compared to the 1.6 percent price rise for food and the 1.5 percent drop in clothing costs, rent prices are soaring because of inflation.
“The Hattiesburg market has been very favorable for renters as far as comparing that to national averages,” said Chamberlan Carothers, asset manager at Southgate Realty Carothers said that rent is rising because utilities are simultaneously rising in Hattiesburg, including water, power, oil and gas.
“The expenses keeping up with these properties have jumped much higher than the inflation numbers are showing,” Carothers said.
A Department of Numbers report shows the country’s median gross rent in 2013 was $905. Hattiesburg was reported at $746, which is still above the state’s median at $708.
Deciding on a place to live and how to pay for that place is a common struggle students face on top of academics, jobs, transportation and other responsibilities. Every year, college students are looking for more affordable apartments to live in, but when the school year rushes back each semester, many find themselves forced to sign the lease for an apartment that was not on the top of their list. Due to lack of availability, time strains or cost restrictions, students sometimes are forced into signing a contract with certain housing complexes.
Student housing apartments like Eagle Flatts, previously known as University Edge, have increased rent prices, just slightly, but plan to continue this steady increase in rates.
“Prices change all the time depending on the market,” said Eagle Flatts representative Renard Elliott. “When the new company took over, we went up just a little bit; nothing drastic that would hurt residents financially.”
Eagle Flatts has recently became under a new management called the Capstone Real Estate Service. The four- bedroom was $350 for rent and is now $355, a value still below the market rate.
Senior therapeutic recreation major John Marcus lives in a two-bedroom apartment in a complex called Pearl Place under McMahan Realty.
Marcus now pays $490 for rent after his roommate moved out, but the split cost between the two had him paying $245 a month. This is a stark difference compared to Vie at Hattiesburg’s $609 a month per person for a two-bedroom.
“It’s still one of the best prices around since I searched all over town, plus there’s the convenience of being basically on campus,” Marcus said. Rent increased from $470 in August.
Vie at Hattiesburg is a popular student housing complex that features many extra amenities for its residents including a 24-hour fitness center, a swimming pool area and a private shuttle service.
The Vie increased its rent as well. The four-bedroom price rose from $439 to $449 and is continuously increasing in prices due to renovations and market inflation.
“We renovated for completely new floors, put in stainless steal appliances and improved security,” said Deanna Cheathem, a leasing consultant at Vie Hattiesburg. “Nobody likes it when prices go up, but we are just wanting to do more for the residents.”
“They go up each year,” said Jason Borges, a representative of The Cottages in Hattiesburg. The Cottages’ two-bedroom rent price, $625, is higher than the rent at The Vie.
“Naturally, there will be people who are upset when there is a price increase,” Borges said, “It’s not like we are the only ones. All of housing increases each year.”
Undeclared sophomore Demarcus Miles lives in The Reserve at Park Place and pays $445 for the price of a two-bedroom and commutes to campus.
“The price has gone up and paying it can be hard for some when you don’t have the money for extra stuff you have to cover like utility bills and the cost of furniture and food,” Miles said. “I was kind of forced into this. If I would have taken my time, I could’ve found something better and cheaper.”
Students have personal reasons to complain about the high costs of student housing like Vie at Hattiesburg, The Cottages of Hattiesburg and Boardwalk at Dewberry Landing, among others.
What was discovered, however, is that students at other Mississippi institutions have the right to be complaining about the high costs of living.
Oxford, home to The University of Mississippi is the most expensive town for Mississippi college students in terms of living.
For example, single-family homes with three bedrooms in Oxford averaged approximately $1,143 per month, in Starkville approximately $1,000, and Hattiesburg was the lowest at approximately $959. When it comes to apartments, the average price per room in Oxford is about $504 per month, in Starkville it’s about $377 per month, and Hattiesburg is even lower at roughly $334 per month. Gross rent in Hattiesburg steadily rose from $658 in 2005 to $746 in 2013.