The allure of going away to college can be strong.

It’s a time to leave the nest, spread your wings and exert some hard-earned independence. But with the price of college rising about 3 percent every year and the average cost of room and board adding around $10,000 a year to the bill, some students are taking a more practical approach. At a commuter school, the majority of students commute to school rather than live on campus. And whether it was their first choice or just the sensible one, some students find they love it.

Ross Rosier, who is studying communications at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah initially dreamt of attending college farther than 15 miles from home. “But that wasn’t financially feasible for me when I graduated high school,” he says. So he started an associates degree at Weber State — where he could continue living at home and commute 20 to 30 minutes each way — with the idea that he could transfer down the line.

“I wanted to avoid unnecessary debt as much as I could.”

— Ross Rosier

When the time came, however, Rosier was sold on the school and realized that staying to complete his bachelor’s degree was the best decision for him. “I considered how much it would cost to move away for school, and I realized that the cost of housing at another university would more than double my school costs. I wanted to avoid unnecessary debt as much as I could,” explains Rosier.

The decision, however, wasn’t strictly financial. Rosier was also impressed with the caliber of education he was receiving. “I met professors that were engaging and really cared about the students they worked with. I knew that I was going to get a quality education by staying at Weber State,” he says.

And he’s not alone. Many students at commuter colleges commend the intimate vibe and personal attention compared with larger universities. Roger Virgin, a junior at Lewis-Clark State College (LCSC) in Lewiston, Idaho, cites cost as one factor for attending the school, but also “smaller class size and the ability to contact a professor when needed.”

Dora Axtell, who also attends LCSC, urges students to keep an open mind. “Definitely don’t take [a school] off your list simply because living on campus is not an option. The class sizes are small enough where you can build relationships with peers and faculty. You still have access to library databases as well as writing labs online.” These days, it’s not necessary to be on campus to access all of the school’s resources.

Meagan Crews, a commuter student at Louisiana State University Shreveport, commends her school for making students feel at home. “Although students do not live on campus, we still feel very connected within the university. There are so many opportunities for networking and activities for student involvement and success,” she says.

Indeed, while it may seem like dorm life is an integral part of the college experience, less than 30 percent of undergraduate students in the US live on campus.

Of course, there can be downsides to living off-campus. “Parking can be challenging,” says Rosier. He adds, “Commuting during the winter can be a nightmare if we have a snowstorm.” And of course, there’s the pain of traffic. But even with those hiccups, he says it’s worth it. “The pros of being able to get a quality university education while working a full- or part-time job outweigh the drawback of having to commute.”

So how do you know whether a commuter school is the right choice? “Make sure to study your options and find the best fit for you,” advises Crews. “Most importantly, wherever it is that a student decides to go, it’s so important to get involved on campus and make connections. That is what defines a student’s ‘college experience.’”