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Cost of Living In Chicago For Students

7 min
Uploaded on
Feb 2, 2023
Last updated on
Aug 12, 2023
Uploaded on
Feb 2, 2023
Last updated on
Aug 12, 2023
Cost of living in Chicago for students
Live Large in Chicago!!!

Being one of the largest cities of the midwest USA, Chicago is a prime hub for tourists and international students. Of course, the primary reason is the abundance of prestigious colleges in the city. With higher education comes the burden of paying bills and maintaining an accommodation, which is quite a hassle when you have to focus on your studies too. Don’t worry, we have you covered for the cost of living in Chicago. To help you plan out your budget and cruise through living in Chicago, we’ve broken down the various living costs of Chicago so you can start your new life with ease.

About Chicago

Chicago is a major city in Illinois and is one of the most populated cities in the USA. Famous for its exquisite architecture, history and culture (Chicago med? Chicago fire?), the city is known all over the world. Chicago is also a hub for transportation due to its central location, as well as commerce and culture. 


As a student, the biggest element burning a hole in your pocket is the mandatory (obviously) tuition fees. Depending on the type of courses and university, the cost fluctuates and influences your cost of living in Chicago in a drastic manner. So let’s start by looking at some of the universities and their tuition rates.

University of Illinois Chicago

A public research college of the Windy city, the University of Illinois offers one of the most diverse range of courses in the country. Which eventually serves as a prime point for attracting students. With such a renowned, comes a heavy price. Average tuition fees can range anywhere from $80,000 to $260,000 for a 4-year Degree while a 2-year degree costs around $38,000 and $130,000.

University of Chicago

Established in 1890, the University of Chicago is a private urban research institution home to an undergraduate college noteworthy in the fields of Sociology and Ecology. Known for being ground zero of the first ever human-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, the university is well sought after all over the world. The average cost of studying at the University of Chicago is around $63,000. 

Illinois Institute of Technology

A result of the merger by the Armour and Lewis institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology is a technical & scientific research institute based in Chicago. The institute is home to America’s first fully functional microgrid which helps curb greenhouse gas emissions and eliminates the costly electronic outages. Focused on business, science, applied tech and engineering, the institute is a front runner for students to apply.  The average tuition rate of the institute is around $50,000.

How can we save on tuition fees?

The solution to assistance with tuition fees is simple and straightforward, scholarships. While tuition fees may be preset by the university, the various scholarships provided can help make life easier as you study at these colleges. Checking on the university websites can offer you deep insights into the various scholarships and help you plan out your entire duration of stay more conveniently. Government funded scholarships can also be applied for and since they are common throughout the country you may have a higher chance. Keeping your grades up for the duration of your course can also assist in lessening the tuition fees as special concessions are made for outstanding students.

Student accommodation costs

While tuition accounts for your primary expense, paying for accommodation is not far from being primary too. Of course, you need a comfortable place to stay as you pursue your degree. The overall Chicago living expenses is heavily influenced by the choice of accommodation you make, after all there are a ton of options to choose from. On-campus or off-campus, private rentals or purpose built student accommodations (PBSAs).

If you want to know more about what each of these room types includes, you can watch our FAQ video about all the different room types and their features.

How to save on accommodation costs?

Being economical on student accommodation can go a long way for your budget right? As the most convenient and comfortable accommodation option for students, PBSAs are the prime option.  The accommodation costs also vary on the location and type of room you are choose, here are some approximations on the cost of living in Chicago:

Travel Expenses

Now that we have the tuition and accommodation sorted, it's time to connect the two with transportation in the city. Your Chicago living costs can differ widely depending on your preference of transportation. With the need to travel on an everyday basis, little amounts can account for a larger sum over time, of course the size of the city of Chicago implies you cannot just get around everywhere on foot. A vast well-developed public transportation system makes it rather convenient to travel.

L - Trains

Elevated trains or L-trains are one of the most economical ways to get around Chicago, cost approximately $28 per week, it's an economical solution for your daily commute. The Chicago L trains are by far our most recommended form of transportation.


Have an exact location in mind and need to rush? Hail a cab and commute a tad bit faster. With an average cost between $2.25 to $3 per mile, it makes for an efficient transportation solution although it would add up to a higher cost down the line.


By far one of the most economical modes of transportation, the well laid out bus routes lower the cost of living in Chicago as a ride costs $2.50 per ride. With multiple buses running from morning to night, you will always have that bus ride to count on.

Metro Rail

The best mode of transport for heading outside Chicago or to the suburbs is most convenient through the well established metro rail which costs around $4 to $11 per ticket. 

Water Taxi

What’s better than land based vehicles and yet economical? WATER TAXIS! Commuting through the waterways of Chicago, a one-way trip costs around $6 to $7. Totally worth once in a while as you commute across the city.

Groceries and Food

Covering most of the basics, it's time for survival, food and groceries section in the cost of living in Chicago. While these costs are much harder to approximate as it varies from person to person, we estimate it should cost anywhere between $120 - $300 dollars on food every month. Some of the basic rates for common food and grocery purchased by students are:

How to save on meal costs?

No, the solution is not to stop eating. With kitchens available at most student accommodations, its a prime time to learn cooking or further your skills. Eating out is going to burn a hole through your pocket faster than you can say ‘quaso’. Sure it will be difficult doing your own cooking, but once you get the hang of it, it's going to make a significant difference in your cost of living in Chicago and you will be able to boast about your cooking skills.


Basic utilities are a fundamental expense which is pretty much unavoidable when you think about the cost of living in Chicago. Utilities are required for daily living and functionality of your residence. Hot water, heating, electricity and cooling will cost you around $150-200 per month, depending on how and where you live. Wifi adds approximately $60 per month.

How can you save on utilities?

Sharing is caring, or in this case, sharing is saving. Since utilities are billed as a whole for a residence rather than individually, living with friends can help bring down these costs and make your cost of living in Chicago much easier. Moreover, living in PBSAs comes with included utilities in the rent and makes for efficient savings.

Miscellaneous expenses

Being a student adds some additional costs onto your overall cost of living in Chicago. These include books and stationary costs, gym memberships, tickets to places you visit in Chicago. Of course, these will vary on the basis of your tastes, but setting aside $150-$200 should be able to cover these expenses.

How can you cut down on these expenses?

Miscellaneous expenses imply these are not essential to your stay. As a result, when you need to make cuts in your budget, these expenses are your buffer to maintaining a comfortable cost of living in Chicago. Substitutes for certain expenses can also be made, for example, if a certain gym membership costs $30 per month, maybe finding an alternative costing $20 per month although with lesser amenities would help. However, many universities and PBSAs do have their own gyms at way lower rates.

As we may have seen, managing finances ain’t easy being a student, as a result we tried to break down the costs as much as possible to make your cost of living in Chicago a breeze. Chicago is a majestic city and students who get a chance to study here are lucky indeed, so plan and manage your expenses and go explore your new chapter! All the best!

Frequently Asked Questions

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Cost of Living In Chicago For Students
7 min
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