Cheap Student Housing: Buy a Home While You're Still in School

Ranna McNeil footed her college housing costs in a way few students think of. As a freshman at Pennsylvania State University, she purchased a four-bedroom home in York, Pa. For much of her college career, McNeil paid the mortgage and utilities by simply renting out the spare rooms.

"It was great because when I had renters in the house, I essentially didn't have any major living expenses," says McNeil.

Seven years later, McNeil, now a 32-year-old finance manager for a local architecture firm, is getting ready to move out of her college home into a new place near Harrisburg, Pa. Unlike most grads just applying for their first mortgages, McNeil is leaving her college town with seven years' worth of home equity under her belt, giving her a significant fiscal jump on her tassel-turning counterparts.

"It was a good thing to do, because now I'm in a really good place," says McNeil, "but it wasn't easy."