If you're looking for a pleasant way to pile up money for
that big move to the country, you might try heading for a
university. Seriously. Don't enroll, don't join the staff .
. . just live there. My husband and I are doing exactly
that right now and saving more money than seems possible.
The trick is simple . . . we're head residents in a dorm.
Don't shudder. The old lady housemother who locks doors and
plays parent is fast disappearing. At today's up-to-date
schools, head residents are generally young people in their
twenties, either married or single. Some are otherwise
unconnected with the university, some work there, some are
former students back to complete their undergraduate work
and some are graduate students.
Jon and I are in our late twenties and our only connection
with the university where we live is our position there as
head residents. During the nine-month school year, our
responsibilities are relatively few and we have plenty of
time to hold down other jobs. The rest of the
time—summer and shorter vacations—we're free to
stay in university housing or to take off . . . as we
We live in a fully furnished modern apartment with an
entrance hall, dining room-living room, kitchenette,
hallway, large bedroom, full bath and plenty of closet
space. Our windows look out on a large tree-shaded yard,
and we have a beautiful view down the back to the river. In
the suburbs, this apartment would probably rent for at
least $110 a month and—in the city—it would
easily go (with the parking space) for $150. Instead of
paying any rent, however, we are BEING PAID $400 a year by
the university to live here. Nor do we pay for any
utilities except our private phone (which is a luxury since
we already have a free college phone in the apartment).
Throughout the school year, we also get food in the dining
commons and once-a-week maid service . . . all free, of
Last year—our first—we figured we saved at
least $1500 on rent, $400 on heat and utilities and over
$700 on food. So, by living here on campus for two years,
we'll save an easy $5000 on living expenses . . . and that
$5000 will go directly into our back-to-the-land bank
account over and above what we regularly save from our
In many other ways, living on campus costs less, too.
Students periodically have their own sales—especially
at the end of the term or school year—where clothes,
records, used books, bikes and furniture can all be bought
Film festivals, concerts and lectures are often free or
close to it and—when they do cost more than we want
to pay—we just amble over around intermission time
and still catch the last half free. Last year we took in a
complete series of Ingmar Bergman films—in
chronological order and with a short discussion following
each one—for 25¢ apiece. A whole cinema course,
worth more to us than many lecture courses we've taken, for
almost nothing! Auditing actual lectures can be interesting
and inexpensive also and, right now, we're taking a film
course designed and taught by the students themselves.
Other activities? At vacation time, the ride board is
filled with names of people needing rides and riders and
it's easy to travel to almost any part of the country for
practically nothing. We can use the university swimming
pool for free, its sailboats for $1 an afternoon and its
tenting and camping equipment for $2 a night during the
week and $3 on weekends. By joining the camera club, we
have access to cameras and developing equipment
and—by simply showing an interest—we can use
campus craft equipment such as woodworking tools and hand
Virtually all these resources are within walking distance
of our apartment and, since we both walk to work, we use
our car very little. So—not only do we save on rent,
food and utilities—but on entertainment and
The advantages of being a head resident are not merely
economic, however. By living here, we've also discovered a
world of intriguing ideas, new concepts and interesting
conversation. We've learned so much without having
to go through any academic hassles and pressures
and—when we do get the money to make our big move
(probably at the end of this school year)—some of the
ideas and friends that we've found here will be invaluable
OK, but what do we DO as head residents?
First, we live in a dorm of 175 upperclassmen (the easiest
type of dorm to handle since it's the freshmen who tend to
have the adjustment problems and need the most guidance)
and we relate to our independent guys almost entirely on an
equal friend-to-friend basis.
Second, our head resident "job" lasts only nine months a
year. During the summer (and shorter vacations too!) we're
free to live here on our own or take off, as we choose.
Third, during the nine months that the students
are here, we actually "work" very little except at
the beginning of each term. Then, we have to hand out room
keys on the day the students arrive and we meet with the
students on scholarship to decide who will work at what job
and at what hours.
Finally, we meet with the house council five or six times a
year to see how things are going and to solve any problems
that come up. Jon has lunch once a week with the dean and
other head residents and—if we're going away for a
weekend—we ask one of the students to stay in our
apartment to take any emergency calls.
That's it. Period. No "hours" . . . no "police work" . . .
very little bureaucratic red tape. We both have plenty of
time to carry on our regular full time jobs.
How do you go about becoming a head resident? Go
to the college or university where you'd like to live and
talk with the Dean of Students. (A liberal co-ed school or
big university is best. Conservative universities and
all-girls' schools sometimes require their head residents
to take a too-active parent role toward students).
The Dean of Students may or may not be responsible for
hiring you, but it's important that you meet him and check
him out. He'll be the administrator you'll be closest to
and, if you don't like him or his philosophy, you don't
want the job.
There are really very few requirements for being a head
resident. A college degree is desirable, and it helps
immeasurably if you get along easily .with college
students. Any sort of leadership experience will also be to
your credit . . . work on social action projects, teaching,
even camp counseling. These and an
easy-going-but-responsible manner during the interview are
about all you need to qualify . . . it doesn't much matter
how you look.
So for free living, a small extra income and the chance to
save a huge percentage of your regular salary while
planning that Big Move to the country . . . check out a
head residency at your nearest university. Moving back to
Mother Earth by way of the college campus may seem like
nonsense at first . . . but it works. It really works.