Dorms vs. apartments: which lease should you sign?


Students looking for housing can choose from 19 dorms, three campus apartments and several off-campus apartments.

As apartments open their contracts for the 2023 lease cycle, students begin their quest to find their perfect temporary home.

Unlike many other universities, Iowa State does not require any students to live in on-campus housing. However, having more choices brings about more complications when deciding the right place to live.

There are 19 student dorms located throughout campus. Prices vary each year, but the dorms generally range from $4,725 to $6,255 per year, with an average cost of $5,137. Four dorms are priced at the top $6,255 rate, while nearly all the rest remain around the price point of $4,725.

The dorms with the highest rates include Eaton, Buchanan, Geoffroy and Martin. Buchanan and Geoffroy are located on the south side of campus near several Ames businesses. Eaton and Martin can be found on the west end of campus next to two dining halls and several major academic buildings. They all contain newer interiors and amenities and offer suite-style living with in-room bathrooms.

For students with vehicles, residence hall parking passes cost $166 for the academic year and an additional $45 for a summer pass.

Parking is optional, but students in university dorms are required to have a meal plan. A variety of dining options are available to students, but the default dining plan starts at $2,316 per semester. It includes two meals per day, 14 flex meals and $100 Dining Dollars.

“Living in the dorms was alright, but I actually met so many of my friends that I don’t think I would’ve ever met otherwise,” said Keenan Peters, a sophomore who lived in Willow Residence Hall during his first year on campus. “You’re constantly just surrounded by people in your class, so it’s so easy to meet new people.”

There are three university-owned apartments on campus: Frederiksen Court, Schilletter Village and University Village. These apartments start at $3,015 up to $6,305, creating an average price of $4,819 per academic year. If a student elects to live with a roommate, these rates are cut in half.

The apartments also offer summer rates so that students can stay for part of or the entire summer semester.

“Students are able to live more independently than in traditional residence halls and get a taste of apartment living while still having access to various supports and resources,” said Courtney Klein, Schilletter-University Village Community Center (SUV) apartment director.

SUV apartment leases include 24/7 maintenance help, access to after-hours Resident Assistants, community programming and free Wi-Fi.

The apartments also build their utility costs into the leasing price, so students do not need to worry about paying an additional bill each month. Students in campus apartments are also not required to purchase a meal plan.

“We also offer family housing so students can have their loved ones reside with them while they pursue their studies,” Klein said.

Just steps off campus are dozens of privately-owned apartments and complexes scattered throughout Ames. These apartments include Campustown, Stadium View Suites and The Edge. Their prices range from $615-$819 per month, averaging $684 per month or $8,204 for a full 12-month lease.

“I love living off-campus,” said Anna McClellan, resident and leasing agent at The Edge apartments. “It’s still close to my classes and the restaurants, but you have more freedom and can still make tons of friends.”

For a two-bed living space, campus dorms have the lowest estimated yearly cost of $6,442. Close behind, university-owned apartments average out at $6,455 per year. These both include summer rates but exclude parking fees and meal plans. Off-campus apartments have the highest estimated yearly cost, averaging $8,204 for a two-bed space, not including utilities and parking fees.

Additional information on student housing options can be found at the Housing Fair in the Memorial Union today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.