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Chic Living on a Student Budget

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Fantastic student living that won’t break your budget.

By Keri Heath

As the school year draws closer, Austin college students begin to compile their lists of back-to-school essentials: notebooks, pens, new clothes. Oh yeah, and a place to live. Along with worrying about classes and work, university students must think about the rising costs of living as the capital city becomes more popular.

While it’s no secret that Austin home and apartment prices have been increasing in the past few years, it is possible to find somewhere classy to live within the student budget. The surrounding campus area contains many options that can immerse residents in student living or provide a quiet neighborhood community. The trick to finding a great deal is to look early, as many campus areas have pre-leasing options.

“It’s important that students get a head start when looking for campus housing,” says Elle Klein, a Realty Austin agent. “It’s not unusual for complexes and condos to list in early spring for an August move-in. Hope is not lost if you’ve gotten a late start, though; properties pop up all year long.”

West Campus is one trendy option for students, with rent prices ranging from about $600 to $800. Rio West and Axis West Campus are two popular apartment complexes with high-quality appliances and fun amenities, such as pools and fitness centers. While a little more expensive, a West Campus location will submerge residents in campus life, and is only a short hop from the main UT campus.

Located just a short drive or bike ride south of the UTs campus, Riverside is another neighborhood where college students tend to congregate. Most apartments in this area have all the amenities a student could want, including furnished apartments and free cable, and several UT shuttles run to this area. Prices can be as low as $400 to $700, and apartments offer a clean, comfortable place to live not too far from the action.

For students who may want to get away from the action in their off time, Far West offers the perfect solution. Still only a short distance from the bustle of campus and downtown, this area offers apartments for $550 to $750 for the student on a budget. This neighborhood is a great place for students who prefer to relax on their days off, but still features the amenities that students want.

Students on a tight budget should also look into SMART Housing. Initiated in 2000, this program aims to provide affordable housing to households that make less than 80 percent of the median family income in the Austin area. Any student who receives need-based financial aid also qualifies automatically for the program and has access to special SMART housing options that are offered at a reduced price.

“Another alternative is to purchase a condo, and then keep it as part of your investment portfolio once [the student]graduates,” Klein says.

While this option requires a little more planning, and likely help from a parent or relative, it may be one students are willing to consider when searching for the biggest money saver.

Adding a roommate or two is another great way to cut down on living cost without sacrificing a great location. The biggest thing to remember when searching for a place to live is that while you may not get the apartment of your dreams, you can get something comfortable and functional. By planning and researching the right way, you can take the stress out of your living arrangements and start the school year with a clear head.


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