The Case for Affordable Student Housing Co-ops

The long-term future of America depends on young people today receiving a quality education that will enable them and the US to compete in the new world economy emerging after the great recession of 2008-9. For many students, co-ops offer a key to college affordability. Student Cooperatives have grown while maintaining affordability since the Great Depression. With education funding shortfalls in many states students are being asked to pay more and more to get a quality education. Tuition and other costs continue climbing: up 439% since the early 1980s, according to a recent report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.  

The mission of student housing cooperatives is to help students afford to attend college regardless of income level and to further the formal and informal education of our members. The need is great now for affordable housing for students. A recent comprehensive housing study in Austin revealed 37,000 households earning less than $20,000 per year are competing for less than 8000 units they can afford. Ninety-two hundred of these households are students.

Student cooperatives use a shared equity model. Members do not receive any economic benefit except for co-op services. Equity builds in the corporation. The board of directors at each co-op organization is made up of members who live in the houses. Members set their own prices, make capital investment decisions, and gain valuable experience managing the business. This model has enabled our organizations to maintain affordability for generations of cooperative members.

  Min Rate Max Rate Median Family Income served Avg. Market Rent
Inter-Cooperative Council (Ann Arbor) * 352 464 24-31% 941
Michigan State Student Housing Cooperative 200 300 16-24% 728
Berkeley Student Coops ** 451 451 29% 1,083
Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative 359 564 26-41% 1,310
University Cooperative Housing Assoc (UCLA) * 428 551 30-39% 986
College Houses (Austin) * 269 529 21-41% 829
UT Inter-Cooperative Council (Austin) 340 470 27-37% 829
Madison Community Coop (Madison) 250 475 18-34% 814
Riverton Community Housing (Minneapolis)* 496 856 (4 br apt) 35-42%



  • * Asterisk for each coop built using College Housing Loan Funds

  • Coop Prices are for the academic year and exclude food, utilities, laundry, and internet.

  • Most coops offer academic year contracts and reduce prices in the summer.