The most (and least) expensive college towns: spring semester edition

3 weeks ago by James Mattone in Facts, Features, Trends

This week marked the first week for the spring semester at hundreds of colleges across America. While some are returning back to their dorms after the winter break, others are starting their first semester after waiting patiently on the waitlist, getting held over until January, and come in excited and ready to learn...

... And for those new students, as well as others, they may have spent the winter break shopping for a new apartment.

Collegestudentapartments.com ($COLLEGESTUDENTAPARTMENTS) hosts tens of thousands of apartment listings on its website that are for college students. We have indexed, sorted, and compared this data (for Jan. 4) to determine which cities and towns host not only the best colleges. but also the most affordable places to rent from.

This update is especially important for those who are considering to start (or re-start) their education in the spring semester this year or the next, or who subletted in the fall and need a new place to live in the spring.

Here were the top-10 cities with the most apartments listed on the website on Jan. 4, as well as the average rent in those cities.

Cities with the most inventory

City State Number of Apartments (Jan. 4) Rent (Average)
Houston TX 6376 $1,538.21
Chicago IL 5977 $2,109.13
Austin TX 5353 $1,646.26
Dallas TX 4399 $1,776.19
Washington DC 3302 $3,024.37
San Antonio TX 2926 $1,219.44
Boston MA 2672 $3,479.42
Atlanta GA 2656 $2,094.63
Seattle WA 2569 $2,356.96
Los Angeles CA 2426 $3,325.41

Topping the list in terms of raw listings is Houston, which is home to the University of Houston, Texas Southern, and Rice University. Chicago, home of the University of Chicago, Loyola of Chicago, and several others, had the second-most inventory on the website.

Renting a place in Chicago was, on average, $570.92 more expensive than renting an apartment in Houston. Then again, in Houston, people are more likely to have a car to get around than in Chicago, where students can use the "L" and other means of transportation that the Chicago Transit Authority provides.

Out of the top-ten cities with the most inventory, Boston, the home of 30+ universities including Boston University, Northeastern, and a neighbor to top schools in Harvard, MIT, and Tufts, has the most expensive average price. 

Technically, Los Angeles has more apartments listed on the website that 2,426, as some listings were done by a more specific area (i.e. Hollywood, Santa Monica) as seen in the next chart.

Most expensive cities to rent

For this list and the next, we only looked at cities with more than 100 apartments available to rent on the website.

City State Number of Apartments (Jan. 4) Rent (Average)
Marina Del Rey CA 102 $5,661.67
San Francisco CA 963 $4,475.30
Redwood City CA 146 $4,324.97
New York NY 1537 $4,271.81
Mountain View CA 121 $4,052.99
West Hollywood CA 201 $4,046.86
Hollywood CA 268 $3,823.43
Sunnyvale CA 163 $3,781.92
Newport Beach CA 137 $3,759.17
Edgewater NJ 165 $3,503.46
Weehawken NJ 146 $3,482.47
Boston MA 2672 $3,479.42
Santa Monica CA 115 $3,363.33
Brookline MA 251 $3,347.02
San Jose CA 470 $3,343.07

Marina Del Ray, which is right next to Venice in Los Angeles, barely gets into the list and has the most expensive rent. And for good reason; the median income here is over $95,000, and takes up less than a square mile of land. Several other Los Angeles locales — Hollywood, for instance — also make the list.

Below it is another obvious expensive place: San Francisco, which is not only home to tech startups and success stories, but also UC San Fran, the California College of the Arts, and is north of schools such as Stanford. Here, the average apartment will run a student $4,475.30 to rent.

Boston has the most inventory in this top-15, and its neighboring town of Brookline makes the list by being just over $100 cheaper to live.

Least expensive cities to rent

City State Number of Apartments (Jan. 4) Rent (Average)
Toledo OH 174 $723.84
Lubbock TX 359 $783.05
Evansville IN 228 $787.85
Springfield MO 259 $811.45
Sioux Falls SD 235 $817.93
Minot ND 263 $824.41
El Paso TX 299 $834.89
Clarksville TN 129 $842.57
Tulsa OK 553 $842.62
Akron OH 151 $847.22
Urbana IL 148 $854.73
Norman OK 210 $864.07
East Lansing MI 253 $867.58
Killeen TX 160 $868.09
Columbus GA 381 $875.18

Headed to the University of Toledo? Good news, an apartment there is, on average, $723.84.

This list reads like a tour through the Midwest and South, as land is cheaper out there than it is on the coast. But fear not; these towns and cities still have solid colleges, with most being state schools. The University of Illinois is in Urbana, East Lansing is home to Michigan State, Akron has Akron University, and Tulsa has the University of Tulsa.

Pricing over time

Of course, these prices are just a snapshot of what inventory is like before the spring semester. However, with data as far back as the beginning of the fall semester, we're able to see the inventory and pricing of a few cities over time.

For example, here's a look at New York's inventory and average price:

It is pretty steady on both inventory and price heading into the new year, but also had some odd parallel dips between price and inventory over the past few months.

Then again, it is New York, where cheap apartments and the city's name usually don't fit into the same truthful sentence.

Here's a look at Houston and Chicago, the top-two cities by inventory.

In both cities, there were minor rent spikes with decreased inventory, but there does not seem to be a causation between inventory and pricing, contrary to popular belief.

Finally, here's a look at Cambridge, the home of MIT and Harvard.

Again, price and inventory in this city don't seem to have a correlation nor causation. While some cities not mentioned here may have that relationship, the four we've picked out here aren't affected by such changes.

Subscribers interested in the rent and inventory of 100's of American cities through collegestudentapartments.com can figure it out by clicking here.

James Mattone

James is a recent Boston University graduate who calls the world of esports and video games his home. As a young journalist, he has already covered two E3 expos a...

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