Top Business Schools: Where MBAs Live & What Rent Costs


The email finally came. Sure enough, you were among the chosen. Now that you’ve been accepted, the real work begins. Tender your resignation and prepare your successor – that’s easy enough. Take out a loan? Check! Pack your boxes and find a place to live? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ah, the joy of apartment shopping – an exercise that reminds you how little power you have…and just how good you had it before. Out there, it’s cutthroat competition for cramped quarters replete with 1970s-style fixtures and crusty carpets. You know the drill: no nails, no screws, no paint – no personal style whatsoever. The hidden fees are par for the course, as are leaky faucets, indifferent heaters, and raucous neighbors. And yes, that was a gunshot you just heard!


Stanford GSB Jack McDonald Hall: The purple ball is a signature style element of Mexican architects Legorreta + Legorreta

Alas, MBA students rarely face such horrors. Some schools, such as Stanford GSB, boast campus living quarters that would rival the Marriott. Other programs, including Chicago Booth, can rely on landlords who cater to MBAs – even offering study space and computer labs to boot. Still, where you live has a big impact on your MBA experience. If you live away for campus, you’re bound to miss out on those impromptu gatherings that feed your relationships. Fact is, some housing – both on- and off-campus – are extensions of school culture, which means more opportunities for collaboration and community.

That’s one reason why mbaMission examines housing options in its newly-released Insider Guides. These free annual guides, which are available through Poets&Quants, examine 16 leading American MBA programs (and INSEAD) top-to-bottom on everything from clubs and culture to curriculum and concentrations. As part of its section on where to live, the guides look at the dorms and apartment complexes where students are living; how much they are paying for rent; the transportation options available; and the local and regional attractions – including bars and restaurants and cultural and entertainment venues available to MBAs at each school.

Naturally, rent is a major concern for MBAs. In concert with Rentometer, the guides tabulate the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment near programs like Harvard, Chicago Booth, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Michigan Ross, and Duke Fuqua. Not surprisingly, New York and Boston units were most expensive. Notably, an apartment within .2 miles of NYU Stern cost $3,157, with MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School students shelling out $3,041 and $2,777 respectively. Mind you, these numbers don’t count university-run housing. Even more, they don’t doesn’t necessarily calculate deposits, utilities, and fees either.


At the low end, you’ll find college town programs, with Charlottesville (Virginia Darden), Hanover (Dartmouth Tuck), Durham (Duke Fuqua), and Ithaca (Cornell Johnson) all ranking among the lowest rents for top tier MBA programs. This isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule, however. Notably, MBA students will pay slightly more in Ann Arbor (Michigan Ross) than in Hyde Park (Chicago Booth) or Evanston (Northwestern Kellogg). By the same token, rent in neighborhoods surrounding the Wharton School – the world’s top MBA program in some rankings – averages just $1,396 – nearly a $1,000 less than Berkeley.

That’s because finding a place near Berkeley is becoming an increasingly expensive proposition. Looking at rental costs between the 2016 and 2018, the price of a one bedroom pad for MBAs has jumped 44.5%, the large gain among the programs that mbaMission evaluates. Similarly, rent within a 1.5 radius of the Duke Fuqua campus in Durham has climbed 40% — an increase nearly matched by UCLA Anderson (39.5%). That said, there is one region where MBAs are experiencing a decrease in rent over the past two years: New York City. Within .2 of a mile of Columbia Business School, rent has fallen by 12.5%, a number slightly better than its Greenwich counterpart (though both schools’ numbers are based on a different radius from 2016, which could explain the two year changes at several MBA programs).

Where exactly do MBAs live among top schools? What are these facilities like? What kind of walk or drive is involved in these locales? Here are Insider Guide excerpts that offer a look at where school peers choose to live – and why!

Members of the Berkeley Haas Class of 2019. Photo courtesy of UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

U.C.-Berkeley (Haas)

Both on- and off-campus housing are available, but most Haas students live off campus, approximately 15–25 minutes away. Many live in the neighborhoods surrounding Berkeley and walk or bike to school, though some students (mostly second years) do commute from San Francisco (approximately a half-hour drive with no traffic). Berkeley is easily accessible via San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system, called the BART, and the Berkeley BART Station is a 15-minute walk from Haas (campus shuttles are also available without cost for students)…

The university’s Cal Rentals housing service offers assistance with both on- and off-campus housing; however, we learned that most students typically find their housing through Craigslist. According to the Haas website, the average rent in off-campus housing in the area was from $750 to $1,000 a month for a studio, $850 to $1,400 for a one-bedroom, and upwards of $1,200 for a two-bedroom apartment. As one second-year student noted, “It’s high for most of the country, but nothing compared to Manhattan.” On campus, the Manville, Garden Village, and Ida Jackson Apartments are designated for single graduate students, while married students— with or without families—can choose between East and West Village within University Village (Albany).”

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