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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, December 09, 2021
An empty residence hall room at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

An empty residence hall room at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The real cost of living in UW-Madison residence halls

With the University of Wisconsin-Madison welcoming its largest freshman class in history for the 2022-23  school year, the cost of living in on-campus housing has been at the forefront of minds across the campus community. 

While 78% of UW-Madison students live off-campus, 22% live in university housing, prompting questions about the cost of living for thousands of students. 

University Housing Communications Director Brendon Dybdahl stated that freshman housing plans for two semesters — seven to eight months — can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $14,100, depending on which dining plan a student decides to purchase. The combined mid-tier dining plan is priced between $10,400 and $13,200, while the typical off-campus resident, nationally, spends about $10,781 for an entire year of room and board according to a report from the Education Data Initiative.

On-campus housing costs at UW-Madison are low compared to some other Big Ten schools, a fact that Dybdahl characterizes as typical. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor housing website lists the basic on-campus plan, for example, as ranging from $11,130 to $16,600, depending on room type.

These prices are not static.  Between 2003 and 2014, increases in price for on-campus housing at four-year colleges outpaced the rise of rent, per the Education Data Initiative. Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics found that on-campus housing costs at Madison have risen approximately 5.6% since the 2017-18 school year.

The students most intimately familiar with this increase are returning housing residents — UW-Madison students that choose to live in on-campus residence halls for additional semesters. 

Dybdahl says that the retention rate for on-campus housing is between 10% and 12%. These students are not required to choose a dining plan and thus the price range is about $2,000 cheaper on both the low and high end of the on-campus housing pricing spectrum.    

House Fellows — students living in dorms acting  as “supervisors” of housing residents — are responsible for enforcing rules, organizing activities and handling emergencies.

Room fees for House Fellows are completely covered, valued at about $9,600, according to Dybdahl. 

In addition to free room and board, House Fellows are slotted to make a little over $3,000 dollars as a stipend, varying depending on experience, for the 2022-23 school year. They also receive a meal plan valued at $1,260, as well as an on-campus resident discount on food around campus.

Because off-campus housing options vary so widely, it’s hard to characterize, but Dybdahl emphasizes that on-campus housing is an ultimately valuable experience for students.

“Generally, when factoring in food, amenities, utilities, location and services provided, we think living in residence halls provides a lot of value to students and compares well to off-campus,” Dybdahl said.

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