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VIDEO: Why Ole Miss Students Pay So Much More for Housing

For rent sign outside Oxford home.
Homes and apartments rent for more in Oxford than in any other Mississippi college town.

As Ole Miss and the city of Oxford grow, so does the demand for places to live. “We’ve grown incredibly in Oxford. Five years ago, the market wasn’t good because of the economy, and it eventually caught up to Oxford,” said local real estate agent Glenda Keenan, “but the last two years have been just great.”
It was just two years ago that Forbes.com listed Oxford as the 15th fastest growing small city in the U.S., and from 2012 to 2014, enrollment at the University of Mississippi grew from 21,543 to 23,096.
“Everybody here wants to own either a property here, condo or home,” said Keenan. “and all alumni want a home in Oxford. Oxford is a fun place to live, and it’s a great retirement place.”
Keenan also believes the recent success of Ole Miss’ athletic teams has prompted housing prices to rise. All that may be good news for property owners who want to rent or sell, but it also means off-campus housing options for Ole Miss students aren’t particularly affordable. University of Mississippi junior Sinclair Rishel, who will live off-campus for the first time next fall, has noticed.
“I would definitely say that kids here are under a lot more financial strain than in some other cities,” said Rishel, “I think that housing is overpriced; I’d say, like tuition rates and other costs, that it’s too much.”
Rishel says that most of the two-bedroom apartments that she has toured were upwards of $700 per month, per bedroom.  She says her only option for reducing the costs is to live with more people.
Though housing on campus is very limited for anyone other than freshmen, senior Mackenzie Hicks has lived in a dorm or a residential college for all of her four years at the university.
“When it came down to it, I knew I still wanted to stay on campus,” Hicks said. “I thought, you know, I could be paying to live here, instead of having to not only pay rent, but for cable and water and food. It’d just be better off financially for me to stay here.”
Students have reason to complain about the high costs of housing in Oxford as opposed to Starkville, where Mississippi State is located, and Hattiesburg, which is home to the University of Southern Mississippi. After looking at ten housing options listed on property management sites that cover all three towns, Oxford is definitely more expensive.
For example, single-family homes with three bedrooms in Oxford averaged approximately $1,143 per month, in Starkville approximately $1,000, and Hattiesburg was the lowest at approximately $959.
When it comes to apartments, the average price per room in Oxford is about $504 per month, in Starkville it’s about $377 per month, and Hattiesburg is even lower at roughly $334 per month.

Rishel says, if you want to live in Oxford, you just have to get used to the higher housing costs.
“I really do think a part of that is the community, it’s the expectation with class and with kind of the ‘higher’ level of society here. I’m not saying it’s a legitimate price jump, but I think it is the expectation with the more cultured town, you get higher prices, and people are paying more to live near the big attraction like the Square.”

Story contributed by Ole Miss journalism student Gabriel Austin, graustin@go.olemiss.edu.

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