Married student housing for college students is awesome and you should totally live there

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Husband + dog + tiny dorm + couch = cute.

My husband and I got married in February 2007, when we were still students. At the time we were living waaaaay the fuck out in the middle of nowhere, Alabama, about 30-45 minutes from our university (depending on traffic). The drive was ok, because we were young and in love and just giddy about everything, even long drives, but eventually it grew tiresome to have to stack our classes so that we would spend 12 hours at the university three times a week. Inevitably one of us would have to sign up for a class that met only once a week, like on a Tuesday, and we’d both drive into town (one car) for an hour and a half, just to drive back home. Needless to say, some of those classes were skipped often.

I’m not sure who introduced the idea to us, but we happily discovered that our university offered inexpensive on-campus housing to married students and families. We checked out the apartments, got the details, and were sold: $400 rent (that our grants and student loans covered!) for a tiny place only a five-minute bike ride from school? Yes.

Once we bought a bubble machine and tripped our dog out.

Our on-campus apartment had the same rules as most complexes: don’t paint the walls (we painted one of them anyway), no pets (we adopted a puppy while living there), don’t destroy anything (the puppy subsequently chewed up a corner of the carpet which we hid during our final inspection). It also had the added bonus of quiet time (which wasn’t super enforced, but generally observed during exam periods), and as I mentioned was way inexpensive and close to school. We both got jobs on-campus, got rid of our car, and biked almost everywhere we needed to be.

We were lucky in that a grocery store was down the street, there was a semi-major road nearby with Thai, Japanese, and Middle Eastern restaurants, and our on-campus jobs were sweeeeet and usually meant we sat at a desk playing The Sims (me) or Risk (husband). Basically, we had all that we needed.

My husband and his sister had a wasabi-eating contest. I’m just trying to show you the other side of the room.

Even though we didn’t usually take summer classes, we were able to continue living on-campus throughout the summer as long as one of us was enrolled in the fall. We were both active, full-time students, but there were plenty of couples in which only one of the partners was a student living near us. I got pregnant at the beginning of our last semester, so we didn’t have plans to continue to live in our apartment as a family, but we had a neighbor or two with more than one kid, all living in a tiny 300-square-foot two-room apartment.

There were inspections once a semester, and at our school we were told what day they would happen but not what time. Since we did actually have a pet most of the time we lived there, we would ask a friend or family member to take her for the day. I knew another person who had a pet and she would just sort of shuffle the dog from dorm room to dorm room on inspection day. Most of the RAs were super laidback, and as long as it wasn’t OBVIOUS you were hiding a pet they tended to turn a blind eye.

Overall, living on-campus in married student housing was the best! I would even do it again now, with the two dogs, husband, and kid.

Comments on Married student housing for college students is awesome and you should totally live there

  1. That’s a really neat option for couples. I never knew that colleges offered that sort of thing.

    Also, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who hid a pet. Whenever the landlord came by, my kitties would go spend a day with one of my friends. =)

    • The way I generally ignore apartment rules is shameless. I’ve been living in apartments for nearly seven years, and it’s borderline awful how I’m just like “let’s paint! Let’s drill into the walls!” We (almost) always return the place to the state we found it in, but maaaan. I just can’t live in a totally white, sparsely decorated place.

      AND OF COURSE THE PUUPPPPYYYY. We had to have her, she was the sweetest thing when my husband adopted her. We had to teach her not to bark whenever she wanted, and sometimes had to wrap her up in a blanket to take her outside at night. The first time she spent the night with my mother-in-law (because we had inspections the next day) I cried.

        • My guess on the semi dark pictures would be whippet/terrier mix of some sort but seriously looks on mixed dogs can get pretty deceiving pretty quickly.

          …just an spca volunteer’s opinion.

        • We have NO IDEA. We think she’s a whippet/terrier mix, but the guys at the adoption place didn’t know. We had a vet offer to do DNA testing on her once, but it’s like $80 and we’re not THAT curious. Where/when did you get your dog? I know our dog had two brothers.

          • She came from a shelter in Ohio- we think she’s a Patterdale terrier, but she’s about 10lbs too big. We got a DNA test but it came back crazy- like corgi-schnauzer or something- and the test doesn’t include Patterdales, sooooo

  2. I so wish my university offered that. My bike ride down the canal is beautiful, but it would be so much more convenient to just bike across campus.

    Also, the bubble-machine-puppy picture seems like the most perfect image of married-student-undergrad life.

  3. That’s wonderful! I would highly recommend this to those at schools who have it and who qualify. On-campus family housing is often cheaper than the going rate for apartments in the area and may include utilities.

    I was able to live in family housing when my partner was in graduate school. The complex was open to undergraduate students with families too.

    It was much cheaper than area apartments and had a great community vibe – lots of kids too! We were lucky in that his school’s definition of “family” did not require a marriage license, just some kind of proof (pictures) that we were, in fact, a genuine family and not just two roommates trying to get cheap housing. 🙂

  4. My university offers on-campus housing for graduate students, married students, students with kids, or even “regular” students as long as they are 21 or over. My now husband lived in one of those apartments last year and it was such a great option for him. He bikes everywhere and did research on campus so it was incredibly convenient and just the right size for one person.

    We did decide to buy a house now that we are married, but if we didn’t have enough for a downpayment or something like that I’m sure we would have ended up in the university housing. Lots of people in his area had two or three kids.

  5. This kind of housing can be a really good thing, and not just for married students. Often this type of housing is available to graduate students or sometimes even anyone that is interested and willing to be on a waiting list for a year or so. The rents are often below market rates and the locations tend to be convenient. There is often a good community feeling to this kind of housing. The university family (and graduate student) housing area I was most familiar with had lots of international students and lots of families with kids. The community planned a lot of fun events, and did a lot to make sure everyone was taken care of. For example, the laundry room was used as a donation area for any unneeded item (particularly non-refrigerated foods) that could be useful to someone else.

    However, living in university owned housing can have its downsides. Know the laws in your area, because in some states in the US, normal landlord/tenant laws do not apply when a university is the landlord. That means you do not have the same tenant protections that you would if you rented a non-university owned apartment. It is much easier to force a student tenant to move out of university owned housing then to evict the same person from an ordinary apartment.

    You should also be aware that some of these housing areas have a time limit for how long you can live there. If you exceed that time limit, you will need to move out, even if you are still a student. (This is particularly relevant for graduate students, who can end up still working on their dissertations for years and thus run out of time in school housing before they are ready to graduate.) Make sure that you know all of the policies related to your apartment before you move in.

    I’m a bit surprised that the housing mentioned in the post was so lax about their pet policy, most university housing (including family housing) is not. I know of many people who have had their pets discovered and told they had to move the pet out or move out themselves. I know one person who had a cat in an on campus apartment and when the school found out and made him move the cat he rented an off campus apartment just for his cat for a couple months. He then moved into that apartment once he was done with school (and therefore his on campus apartment). Many people wouldn’t go to those lengths to keep their pets, and I hear of many pets that are rehomed or even abandoned because their owners got caught keeping them in a no pets allowed apartment (university owned or not). Keeping a pet in a no pets allowed apartment can lead to a lot of trouble if you don’t have a plan for what to do if you are caught, and I’d really recommend avoiding being in violation of pet policies if at all possible. That said, I think that pet policies are discriminatory and I wish there were laws that prohibited this type of housing discrimination (as there are in some parts of Canada, from what I understand).

    • My then-boyfriend lived in graduate campus housing, and when I moved in for 2 months until his lease was up, I brought my cat. It was SO STRESSFUL worrying about the maintenance crew coming in and 1) finding the cat and 2) not knowing he was there and letting him escape. We would get constant notices of “over the next 1-5 days, we will enter your apartment between 7 am and 5 pm to check the fire alarms, etc. etc.” So if you are going to hide a pet, really REALLY do some research into how maintenance and inspections work.

      It also didn’t help that my cat loved to sit in the windows… and children would yell “IT’S A KITTY! Wait…WE’RE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE KITTIES!” whenever they saw him!

  6. The university I went to (and now work at) had married/family housing across from campus for decades, and eventually it turned into a really interesting community of international graduate students and families. I stayed there one summer and frankly, it was the pits. By that time the buildings were old and not well kept, but the families stayed because it was convenient, not very expensive, and most importantly, there were resources and activities for the international students/families, so that they felt more involved in the campus community.

    Unfortunately, the university demolished the apartments this year to make room for luxury student housing. As cruddy as the apartments were, I was disappointed to see a tight-knit community be dismantled.

    • Something similar happened at the university I attended, however what prompted the demolition and turning into luxury student housing was the fact that the university had allowed the apartments to become so run-down that it resulted in a gas leak explosion which killed a doctoral student’s 4 year old daughter and his mother. It was definitely one of the most horrific things ever to wake up to (I lived on campus at the time and you could hear the explosion). Because of that I never had any interest of living in that type of housing on campus. We could always find more affordable houses to rent that were the same distance anyways.

  7. We lived in student-housing during my B.Ed. It was a fantastic complex: a series of three-story buildings surrounding a large courtyard, with multiple bedroom options for families. Most of the people there were completing professional or graduate degrees, so it was generally quiet. There was a large international community, and a great family vibe as well. The neighbourhood was also quite close to a major shopping and transit hub, not too far from the university, and was minutes from The Best Public Library Ever. I love where we’re living now, but I do miss the old complex and the neighbourhood.

    Thinking back, the university didn’t really do a great job of advertising this housing option, but maybe that was intentional. If you’re not sure if your school offers grad or family housing, ask!

  8. this is really neat! i don’t know how prevalent this kind of housing is, but i think more universities should advertise it. what a great way to help out their students!

    the only issue i have with this post is encouraging having a banned pet. that’s the sort of thing that causes dogs and cats to end up in shelters after someone brings them home and is threatened with eviction if they don’t rehome the animal. :/ i’m glad it worked out for you, but it won’t work out for most people.

    • I agree about the pets. It can be stressful to the animals to be hidden around or shuffled – relocations are especially tough for indoor-only pets who aren’t used to a new environment. Except in the most dire of circumstances, I don’t think it’s wise to make the decision to get a pet unless you are able to accommodate that with your living situation, which frankly isn’t the case for most on-campus housing options.

    • Ditto re: banned pets. It is also inconsiderate of your neighbors!

      A friend and I lived in a dorm with some girls who had a secret puppy. We did not turn them in (because who really wants to be the “puppy-hating jerk” who does that?) , but settled for resenting the hell out of them for the entire year. Especially since they regularly propped open the courtyard door for the puppy, which created a security issue as well as wreaking havoc with my friend’s allergies (her room was next to the suite with the puppy and she had to listen to it barking, too).

      In short, please don’t put your neighbors in an awkward situation. Don’t take on dog ownership unless you have a living arrangement that accommodates it!

      • Yep, I have terrible animal allergies, and if someone smuggled a pet into a building I’d know about it within 5 minutes as my allergies flared up. Isn’t it also slightly unfair that your pet destroyed some property and you didn’t own up to the damage? (I may be wrong, but that’s what the article implies)

        • Ooooohh those buildings had already been through the ringer, and she chewed on a small bit of carpet. Way more had happened from previous tenants!

          These weren’t dorms, they were very much like regular apartments. My husband has awful cat allergies, so bad he can’t be in a cat home or touch a cat or anything without reacting, but he’s never had a problem with any of our neighbors who have had cars in the many apartment complexes we’ve lives in, so I’m going to assume this was true of anyone around us who might have had a dog allergy. No one ever said anything to us about her.

          Also, this was almost 7 years ago and we were 21 and not especially concerned with most of the valid points a lot of people have made. I don’t feel obligated to apologize for anything we did or didn’t do, but I’m sure we would do it differently now. There were infinitely worse things going on in the apartments, not to mention in the dorms, than our little trio.

          • Stephanie, I ALWAYS love your posts- thanks for this one!

            I do have to say I agree with the comment above you. Your attitude in some of the comments also seems like, “I do what I want! Who cares about the rules! Woohoo!”

            I definitely don’t think you should be feeling like you’re supposed to apologize, but at the same time, if everyone started acting/feeling like that, a good crop of evictions would likely be brewing. Being happy and carefree about blatantly breaking a complex’s rules (and in multiple locations) isn’t really a behavior to model, right?

            I also have never supported the idea of “Well, other people are doing way worse stuff in [a given situation or location], so breaking the rules is ok for me.” I think it’s possible to hold ourselves to higher standards of integrity AND get what we want. For instance, I’ve done lots of things to apartments that were specifically not allowed according to the lease (painting, getting new light fixtures, installing massive hooks, etc.)… I just got permission from the landlord to do them (and in some cases, even got money back on my rent for improving the place, with no requirement to change it back!).

            And yes, once I had a secret pet (in a building where my neighbors were dealing drugs). I ended up just telling the landlord, asking if I could do a pet deposit, and offering to sign an agreement that I’d clean up or repair any issues. Because of the other problem neighbors, and because I’d consistently paid my rent on time for a while, he was actually fine with it without additional deposits or paperwork. I immediately felt less anxious and afraid of being caught/evicted. Of course, the university system might not be as open to this, but I’m just sayin’…

            And sometimes, you can’t work out things like that. So you can live within the rules, or find a place that has rules that fit you a little better. The rules are there for a reason (like the allergy, safety, and cleanliness issues mentioned above).

          • Totally understand that. I’ve been in some apartments where there were definitely worse things going on in there other than pets. >.<

            My current place is a rented house with the carpet already destroyed so no worries about affecting others here. Plus, hopefully we can buy it this year. :crosses fingers:

    • I also agree regarding the pet issue.

      A lot of student housing has common duct work and this can lead to major problems for people who are allergic to pets. It’s unfair to other tenants who have signed a lease or rental agreement for a unit expecting it to be a pet-free zone only to find out that their neighbours have a dog or cat in their unit.

  9. It’s not always only for married students, too! I know several folks who were able to rent a university apartment as undergrad roommates, and I actually live in one now as a university employee. I love it and will stay as long as they let me (no pet in order to make sure that I don’t get on their bad side, though your puppy is totally adorbs :)).

  10. We actually looked into married student housing when we moved up – it proved to actually not be as cost-effective and right for our situation than the close-to-campus apartment we ended up with, but I totally think it can be a great option for a lot of people. One thing that tripped us up was that we were still only engaged when we moved up, and we are still not legally married (we want to have our marriage certificate in our home state and only visited long enough for a ceremony but not paperwork and business). Some married/family student housing is more strict than others about your legal partnership (although I think most universities recognize non-marriage partnerships such as same-sex partnerships in states where marriage is not legal), but we weren’t interested in jumping through the hoops for that due to our legally-unmarried status.

  11. My ex and I lived in student housing for a few years with our two daughters. I loved that the rent was tied into my student loans, until not paying the rent caused me to be dismissed from the college. It was the worst regret of my life, and taught me that I should never put all of my eggs in one basket, and I sure as hell shouldn’t let an alcoholic hold my basket!

    However, it was also some of the most fun years of my life, meeting awesome people and experiencing so much community. It was probably my favorite place I’ve ever lived.

  12. When I got into grad school, 6 hours and another state away from where my first husband and I were living, we tried to apartment hunt, but got nowhere (this was in an age before widespread cell phones and with much less internet, mind you). Someone mentioned on-campus married student housing, and we were able to get a 2 bedroom apartment reserved for us MUCH easier than trying to set up a regular apartment.

    Yeah, the ceiling in the spare bedroom leaked, but at least it was the spare room. It was furnished with dorm-like furniture, but that was fine, because we didn’t own any furniture (we had lived in another furnished apartment before we moved). We were in the older, cruddier apartments because we didn’t have kids–the “family” housing was MUCH nicer, from what I heard. We only stayed for a year, because I got a full time job and switched to part time school, but by that point we could look up newspaper ads for apartments, and it wasn’t long distance to call about them.

    A few years down the road, another married couple we were friends with opted for the same complex–in fact, had we stayed, we would have been neighbors. 🙂

  13. I was born when my parents were living in married student housing back in the ’70s. We moved out before I was 2 so I have no memory of it but my mom still talks about how cozy it was and how much she enjoyed it.

  14. My husband and I have done this, and he is currently living in a dorm like this (while I job hunt and live at my family home). Unfortunately, not all dorms are created equal. Some of the “married” housing is really just a co-ed dorm room, meant for strangers to live together. One room the 2 twin beds were built into the wall, end-to-end, with a bookshelf between. Totally killed the lovin’ mood.
    But this kind of housing has perks like being close to campus (and not needing cars) and is usually fairly cheap, with little/no need to buy furniture.
    I would say that if you’re considering this kind of housing, it’s worth the adventure.

  15. I wish SO much that my school had this. The university I’m considering for grad school offers it, but for now with my husband and I both being full time students with no car we shuttle our two year old across the city via bus with us multiple times a day!

  16. I don’t know if things are different in the States, but usually in Canada, those are open to non-married couples as well! I’ve even lived in student housing technically run by a church (but associated with the university) with my non-husband! I also had a really great experience, and it was fun for my boyfriend (who was not a student) to still be part of that university community.

  17. Both my husband and I have pursued graduate degrees, but neither of us had an option for on-campus housing. For me, that’s because I was at school in DC and having on-campus housing beyond freshman year for any school there is laughable. We’re in Pittsburgh now while he finishes his PhD and, again, an on-campus option never really existed.

    Some cities and universities are certainly better than others for student housing; we decided that a 10 minute commute for him to school was well worth the drop in rent (housing near the universities here are nearly 2x that of other neighborhoods) to live a bit further away.

    Of course, if his school offered something like that at a reasonable rent, we would totally take advantage of it! Also, *grrrr* puppy envy. We’re not allowed to have any pets and our landlords are my parents, so we couldn’t get away with it even if we tried.

  18. We actually looked into this, but sadly my school has just dropped married on-campus dorms. 🙁 but, it definitely seems like a good option, and with my husband just starting next semester, we’re keeping our eyes open to see if they start offering again!

  19. I wish that I were in a situation where this would apply, because it sounds awesome 🙂 My graduate school is low-residency and as a result, has no student housing (except during our one-week residencies every six months) since we live all over the country (I’m 3000 miles away for example). Maybe in another life, haha.

  20. I think the best student housing I ever saw was where my sister’s ex lived. The college was building more dorms and they weren’t done yet when he started going to school there. The college ended up housing students at a local hotel for an entire semester! They only had house keeping come once a week, but he did have access to a pool and hot tub all the time. 🙂

    • I had this. My school (SUNY Binghamton) put 120 transfer students together in a wing of the Holiday Inn across the street from campus. It was sweet. Except for walking to the dining hall (on campus 1.5 miles away).

    • this is pretty common when schools end up with more incoming first-years or transfers than they were expecting – it’s always a gamble with admissions in terms of how many admitted students are going to choose to come. I think I would have felt very dislocated if that had ever happened to me as a student, but a pool and hot tub right there is pretty nice!

  21. My friends are currently living in Married student housing at our school, and while it works for them, it would not work for my and mine.
    They live in a tiny one bedroom apartment about the size of our current mastersuite. Yes, they pay half the rent we do, but we love our two bedroom and all the space we have. I wouldn’t trade it for a smaller place at all.
    They also still feel like “students” while our off campus apartment really allows us to feel like “adults”. They still have school based rules in regards to pets, painting, visitors and people staying over, and while you had no issues breaking them, the housing issues here are so high that if they got kicked out, they’d have no where to go. I really enjoy my homey feeling apartment, where as theirs still feels like a dorm.
    And I love that I can disconnect my life from my school life. I love being away from the school and getting to separate those parts of my life.

  22. My husband and I lived in married/family housing for 6 years, and it was the best! We were able to live in an adorable 1920s Spanish style two bedroom house with a yard. We never would have been able to have that opportunity without student housing!

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