Santa Barbara Ranks 4th in Most Expensive Rent for Students

By the edhat staff

A new study finds that Santa Barbara is ranked the 4th most expensive rental area for students throughout the U.S.

The average monthly rent per bedroom is $1,819 in the Santa Barbara area.

“Rent in the most expensive college towns is nearly ten times higher than in the most affordable. To pay these rents, students would need gross annual incomes of at least $50,000! Family help, financial aid, or on-campus housing are at a premium in these college spots,” states, who compiled the study.

Three other California cities take the top three rankings: Santa Clara for Santa Clara University, San Jose for San Jose State University and University of Silicon Valley, and Los Altos Hills for Foothill College, respectively.

The least expensive college town in California is Merced near the University of California, Merced with an average monthly rent of $534 per bedroom.

The overall least expensive college town in the United States are Morehead, Kentucky ($257); Bowling Green, Kentucky ($261); and Emporia, Kansas ($265), respectively.

The survey used median rent cost data from the 2021 American Community Survey, which provided the average rent by county and the number of bedrooms in rental units. These costs were chained forward using 2023 rent data from the Zillow Observed Rent Index to account for housing inflation. Some extreme outliers were excluded from analysis.

Included were 4-year bachelor’s degree-granting institutions in the United States as determined by the National Center for Education Statistics. The survey did not include Wyoming or Alaska schools due to a lack of data, and did not include Washington D.C. in the analysis. The analysis also did not include about 100 universities where more than 87% of the student bodies lived on campus in 2022.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. Students know full well before arriving here what the approximate cost of accommodation is going to be. Like any decision, whether it’s travel, education, home/car purchase, and so on, you need to know what you can afford. There’s an advertisement for a banking institution that goes something like, “What’s in Your Wallet?” Well, if I look in my wallet and I see a fiver, that means I can afford four $1 items at Taco Bell…..not a Porterhouse and double-Scotches at the T-Off unless I’ve got a C-note in my possession. No wonder so many people in the US are in debt up to their eyeballs….home loans soon going to be 8%….maybe re-think majoring in Dance Study…..

    • BASIC – the well established facts disagree with you. Yes, the rent of properties in the Santa Barbara area reflects the “lifestyle and location,” but has nothing to do with the quality of education at UCSB. Two separate issues (rent and quality of education at UCSB). Nothing new there. Rent is always based on “lifestyle and location.” Common real estate knowledge.
      Also, let’s not forget SBCC, Westmont, and other secondary schools here. The cost of rent for EVERYONE here is astronomically high. Let’s not turn this into another UCSB bashing thread. That’s so cliché.

    • RHS – lol what??? A) This has nothing to do with women or men or any other group over which I am suggesting my superiority. B) I didn’t say a single word about the other schools. I made that comment just to counter the erroneous statement that people are attending UCSB just to party, not for the education.
      Wow. I always thought much higher of you. To take my comment saying school A is top notch and twist that into me saying schools B, C, D, etc are not, is really fundamentally flawed. Disappointed.

    • Sacjon, Chauvinism with a capital “C”, speaks to the idea that our group is superior to any other group and it seems to me that defending UCSB over other UC campuses is such an exercise, especially in the undergraduate liberal arts arena. (The other phrase–Male Chauvinism, is just a subset of the idea.) I generally respect your views as well but am disappointed on occasion to see you so readily buying into the idea that Santa Barbara things are superior to other things. We need perspective. Of such tribal jealousies are wars started. 🙂

    • RHS – Again, I understand the meaning of “chauvinism.” Again, nothing in what I said indicated that I thought UCSB was superior. All I said was that, despite what others were saying, it’s a great school. I said absolutely NOTHING about the other schools. You are inferring things that aren’t there. Further, I can’t stand those who tout SB as superior to other things and have made a point of never espousing that nonsense. If you can find where I did, I’d be happy to explain/retract.
      Still, very disappointing to see the lazy logic there. Maybe read it again?

    • RHS – why are you digging in on this? I never said “superior,” I said it’s one of the top in the country. It IS considered by many to be a great university, look at the rankings. Now, if I said something like, “UCSB is the best school in town,” or “UCSB is better than those other UCs the person mentioned,” etc, then I could see maybe where you’re coming from. By your logic though, I am a “Chauvinist” (not sure why you insist on capitalizing a non-proper noun) for expressing praise for one thing and nothing more. You would consider me a chauvinist by saying my buddy George is one of the best pianists in town. Or, this is one of the best tri tips I’ve ever had. Are you SERIOUSLY saying that, by acknowledging the high quality of something, I am therefore disparaging all others? That’s absolutely not true by any logical means.
      Look, it’s clear you want to stir something up and I’m still bewildered at why you would chose a simple statement of praise of one thing as some flagrant disparagement of all other things, “not Santa Barbara.” It’s a great day out there. I hope you choose to enjoy it. This is a nothing moment. I said nothing offensive nor did I mean anything offensive to other schools.
      I’m about to go have a great glass of beer. One of the best beers. A top notch beer. Don’t be upset for the other beers. I’ll drink them too, but this one is made with better quality hops. It has better carbonation. The taste is better. Again, the other beers are also good, but this one is my favorite. Am I a beer chauvinist now?
      It’s OK to admit you had a knee jerk reaction. I do it sometimes too. No harm, no foul.

  2. You’re not reading what I wrote, based on your tangential response. No one’s bashing UCSB, and no one’s arguing that lifestyle and quality of education aren’t linked, or whatever the heck you were going with there. Hey, I work there, and I went there. It’s very lifestyle driven for the average undergrad, in my opinion. I spend time there. You disagree, and that’s fine.

  3. UCSB has one of the finest Materials Science Engineering Departments in the world. Anthony Cheetham is beyond genius. I’m also sure there are some UCSB majors, graduate degrees that will give a very poor return on investment.
    Putting that aside for now, lets touch on rent and SB City, SB County limits on growth and development and also touch on the Los Padres National Forest and the Gaviota Coast.
    Starting with the Gaviota Coast to the west of Goleta up to Los Padres NF across the North of all of the SB south coast, and on the Pacific to the south there will be no development. There is restrictive AG zoning in place for much of the North of Cathedral Oaks, Foothill to the LPNF. This helps enormously with quality of life and reduces urban crowding but comes at the cost of fewer residential units. I think most people here do not want to develop Gaviota Coast or cram the foothills with units like LA does. We have quite a few preserves as well some in prime locations for housing, but I enjoy the open space. Again, the tradeoff is less units. We do not allow tall buildings on the South Coast with a few grandfathered in exceptions and again, I’m happy SB, Goleta and Carpinteria are not canyonized, but again that building code costs units. You get my point, so I will move on to UCSB, SBCC and Westmont and the pressure their students put on the already constricted housing market. I think I’ve heard Westmont has agreed to a 100% on Campus housing solution for its 1200 students and continues to build out Faculty and staff housing. That noted, Westmont still has purchased land and developed it in town and that land those units were built on will not house the general public, but do free up existing units for others.
    UCSB and SBCC need to continue to solve their impacts on local housing. Between the two, they have about 6,600 faculty and staff (plus their families) impacting local housing as well as their 38,644 combined students.
    That is about 47,000 total people impacting the local housing market in a constrained corridor. Pacific on one side, Mountainous LPNF to north, Landslide prone Ventura Coast to the east and the conservation of Gaviota Coast to the west. There are infill opportunities but not enough to handle everyone that wants to live here AND the 47,000 students, faculty, staff plus their families.
    Lets say we can average 3 people per unit built with an appropriate mix of studio to 4 bedroom units, that would yield a need for well over 15,000 units minus the student housing already in place out in Isla Vista which I estimate is about 5000 units which means we’d need plus or minus 10,000 units to mitigate the impact of UCSB, SBCC etc on the housing market.
    I did not take into account how many people currently commute from Buellton, Lompoc Santa Maria, Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks who would continue their commute, so maybe we only need 7500 units.
    Then prices would drop, or should at least stall . Classic demand that is far outstripping supply scenario

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