Community Colleges Dorms & Housing Accommodations: A Complete Guide

Key Takeaways

Living in dorms is considered a “rite of passage” for most college students. Taking a step towards pursuing higher education and looking forward to a traditional college experience can be an exciting prospect. 

For others, these dorms are a desperate need. A study at California State University showed 10.9% of the students experienced homelessness one or more times during the year. With rents skyrocketing in recent years, affordable on-campus housing is the need of the hour and you may be wondering if there are dorms in community colleges.

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Over the years, community colleges have changed drastically by making their college experience and offerings in tune with the communities they serve. They now offer sports, honor programs, student-oriented activities, and most importantly, dorms! 

The prospect of having a great college experience and saving money has students keen on applying to community colleges. Read our comprehensive guide below to understand which community colleges are offering dorms and the options you have when they don’t.

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How often do community colleges offer on-campus housing?

Traditionally, community colleges in the United States did not incorporate on-campus housing as part of their educational experience. The reason for this was that they commonly have “non-traditional” students. 

Data shows that 64.2% of community college students are part-time students, 14% of students are enrolled exclusively online, and over 2 million community college students in the United States are parents of children under 18. 

This data suggests that a lot of students already have some sort of non-dorm housing figured out. And that makes sense since community colleges are built to be at the center of each community, usually at a reasonable commuting distance. 

Having said that, according to a data study by the American Association of Community Colleges, about 28 percent of all community colleges now offer on-campus housing. 

With increasing income inequality, young students are struggling to find affordable housing.  “Our students are struggling; they need housing,” says Compton College president, Keith Curry. He believes that providing housing removes the obstacles that can prevent students from graduating.

Research shows that providing students with housing allows community colleges to increase enrollment rates and revenue, add diversity, and provide a complete college experience. 

More importantly, we are seeing evidence from a project in Washington State that providing affordable housing can help students graduate. At Tacoma Community College 94% of the students who had been provided subsidized housing remained in college the first year versus only 24% of those that were deprived of affordable housing. 

Is the government doing anything to help with the accommodation crisis for students? 

As of right now, no laws making affordable living accommodations mandatory have been passed at a federal level. Not only that, most states currently have or had laws that prohibited community colleges from having accommodation, arguing that students enrolled there were from within nearby communities. 

Such theories have since been challenged with studies from institutions like Orange Coast College which clearly demonstrated that half of the student body there commuted from outside the county to avoid steep rents in the area. 

This is, unfortunately, being proved true for many colleges across the nation. Evidence also clearly shows that the lack of subsidized dorms plays into students dropping out before graduating.

There are, however, efforts being made at the state or individual college level to find solutions. Under a new law sponsored by Doris Turner, State Senator from Illinois’ 48th District, Springfield community college boards of trustees and local housing authorities now have the authority to develop affordable housing for community college students. 

“Research shows that students who live on campus have higher GPAs. When students live on campus they are more plugged-in to the campus community and have more opportunities to join clubs, attend events and meet new people” says Turner.

An increasing number of students, unfortunately, have had to resort to couch surfing or living in their cars in the college parking lot. This situation has brought up heated debates among state lawmakers on whether community colleges should urgently provide provisional solutions such as free on-campus parking.

As of right now, to circumnavigate draconian laws prohibiting community colleges from providing affordable housing, colleges are following a process administered through a local housing authority or a non-profit organization. 

We need more efforts like bill HB 374 which was introduced late January 2021 into the Illinois state House by Rep. Nicholas Smith (D-Chicago). HB 374 amends the state's Public Community College and Housing Authorities acts to allow community colleges to develop student housing. 

How many community colleges offer on-campus housing? 

Over the last couple of years, having living accommodations at community college is slowly becoming more of the norm than the exception. 

This is in part due to the acknowledgment, at various levels of government, that at community colleges across the nation, the challenge for the students is not tuition, as it is already subsidized, but in fact, it is accommodation. 

There are now over 223 community colleges, with at least 250 full-time students, that offer dorms according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education System, 208 of these being public CCs.

Additionally, for your convenience, here is a list of courses available at some of the best community colleges. 

Pros and cons of community college housing

Many high school graduates, when applying to colleges/universities, dream of having the classic college experience. They look forward to being an active part of campus life, having roommates, joining fraternities, and spending every moment on campus. For some, these same things can be a distraction or an irritation.

The pros and cons of dorm life can be subjective depending on the perspective of the student in question. However, we have put down some of the most common things that students view as advantages or disadvantages of on-campus accommodation.

Related: Do community colleges require vaccines?



Living on campus is described as the ideal safety net for first-year students. It allows them an easier transition from living with their parents to living on their own. For many, it gives an opportunity to be independent with the comfort of having amenities and services such as laundry, dining halls, cable, recreation centers, gyms, community spaces, etc., provided by the college (these may vary from college to college).


The biggest advantage of living on campus is the convenience of having everything within a certain distance of your dorm. Many living arrangements such as furniture, cleaning staff, etc. are already present on-campus, hence saving you a lot of time and money.


It is also considered a lot easier to make friends when you live on campus. On-campus housing is an automatic community. Having roommates and other dorm-mates can be a huge advantage as you are constantly surrounded by people going through the same experiences as yourself!


Rents for apartments are increasing drastically. According to a report from Apartment List, the national median rent has increased by 11.4% so far in 2021, compared with just 3.3% for the first six months of 2017, 2018, and 2019. Although not always, but on-campus housing at community colleges is usually subsidized, making it a more affordable option for students

Improves Community Colleges

According to an article by The Post Star “Student housing has allowed community colleges to raise enrollment, increase revenue, add diversity and provide a complete college experience. Some have distinct programs that draw students from afar but need to provide them with a place to live. Others have seen local students who wanted on-campus living with the affordable cost of a community college.”



Living accommodations at colleges have limited space and so, you would probably have to share a room with someone else, not to mention a floor with many people. It can be very difficult to find some quiet time for yourself in between so many people. For some, living in a dorm is extremely distracting, especially when you’re trying to study.

Moreover, in dorms students are expected to share bathrooms, either with just their roommate or with the entire floor (communal bathrooms). This varies from college to college of course. 

Standard of Living 

Community colleges in general are usually plagued with a shortage of funding. Due to this, having constant renovations, up-to-date amenities and services, and keeping a standard of health and safety becomes extremely challenging. This is not to say that all community colleges face this problem though.

“With housing comes the need to build a whole bunch of other services. If you have students living on or around campus, they want campus dining to be open at different hours and they want libraries open at different hours,”

says Sara Goldrick-Rab, the founder of the Hope Center for College Community and Justice in Philadelphia and a Professor of Sociology and Medicine at Temple University.

“It becomes a financial expense that is difficult for them to handle and ends up raising their prices even when they thought they wouldn’t be doing that.”

Tips for saving money on room and board

Being mindful of how much you spend during your stay on campus can be extremely beneficial in the long run. Here are a few tips to help you save some money while living in dorms. 

Planning Your Meals 

Take advantage of on-campus amenities and services. Colleges that have living accommodations have food services such as dining halls. So, instead of paying extra for your food and drinks, you can eat for free or get subsidized meal plans on campus. 

Apply For Housing Scholarships/Grants

Some community colleges offer Housing Scholarships/Grants, which allow students the opportunity to live on campus at subsidized rates or even rent-free. The details of how much or how long the scholarship/grant lasts depend on the college itself so talk to counselors at your community college as they may be able to help you discover these opportunities. 

Apply To becoming A Resident Advisor (RA)

Resident Advisors (RAs) is a trained peer leader who coordinates activities in residence halls in colleges. At most colleges, RAs are provided with free rooms and in some cases are also given a monthly stipend. 

What if on-campus housing is not offered at my community college?

Don’t worry, we have got you covered. As of 2020, there were 942 public community colleges in the United States. While the number of community colleges with living accommodations is increasing, the majority still do not offer such accommodations. Here are a few off-campus housing options you should consider if you find yourself in such a situation.

Living With Parents/Family

Many students tend to have living accommodations with their parents, other family members, or even with close friends of the family. If you find a community college where you grew up, or where you have a family you can ask them if they can accommodate you for the duration of your studies. You can even offer to pay a subsidized rent which might be welcomed. 

This helps save up thousands of dollars worth of living costs. However, some argue that college is a time for younger students to experience independence and so, living on your own may be an important part of your development. At the end of the day, you will have to do a cost-benefit analysis for yourself.

Renting a Room

This is a great option for students who wish to live off-campus but cannot afford to rent out an entire apartment. You can either rent a room in an apartment or a house. Some families living near colleges usually offer extra rooms like attics to the college students.   Not only are you able to gain that sense of independence but are also able to live on your own at a much lower cost. However, while searching for a room to rent, it is vital to ensure that you are comfortable living with the people you’re planning on living with.

Renting With Roommates

Many colleges provide help bringing students together who want to share rent. This is an affordable option for finding a living space near your college. However, be aware that it comes with added responsibility. Unlike college dorms, you have to manage utility payments, garbage duty, etc. Additionally, you have to find roommates that you can get along with and who are willing to share the work around the apartment/ house.

Renting On Your Own

For some students, living alone is what’s best for their mental health and lifestyle. This option allows you privacy and gives you the option of doing things your way. While this option may seem like the best, it may not be financially feasible for most college students. Moreover, living alone means that you’re individually responsible for all household duties such as cleaning and paying the bills, rather than splitting them with roommates. 


Can you live in a dorm at a community college? Yes, in some cases. Some students believe that living in a dorm is an essential part of the true college experience. However, not all colleges provide living accommodations, especially most community colleges. 

Nonetheless, with an increase in international and out-of-state students over the years, and skyrocketing rents the demand for on-campus housing at community colleges has increased. While the government is trying to find solutions for students this guide helps you discover your current options.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do all community colleges have dorms?

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1.How can you get dorm/housing & accommodations in college

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