At 3:20 p.m., the 55 Elysian Fields bus towards Canal-Tchoupitoulas is packed. It might even look like a bus for high school kids save for the royal blue Privateer t-shirts.
The French Quarter probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of the traditional university experience. Once home to famous writers like Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote, there is something inspiring about the destination that usually just attracts tourists. Last season on “Southern Charm: New Orleans,” the hit Bravo series about life here in the city, then-law student Reagan Charleston infamously took up residence in the Quarter in order to “better focus on school.” UNO students like Booker Maistros, an undergraduate majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies, insist living off-campus is a more reasonable option than living in student housing.
“For $200 a semester, I get to ride the 55 bus which is cheaper than the $1,000+ it costs to live in the dorms,” he says.
The 55 bus goes north and south on Elysian Fields and runs every 40 minutes — a 20 minute straight shot to campus. Trips cost $1.25 each way. But rent for some undergraduates may be a bit out of their price range — studios start at about $750, according to Craigslist, and 2 bedrooms are about $1500 per month.
UNO’s Housing Site currently lists one-bedroom apartments at $10,850 for the full year — roughly $900 (water included) per month, but what you save is what you get. It’s hard to compete with the ambiance of the historic neighborhood. Established on the site of former US Navy barracks that were abandoned in the 1950s, the UNO campus does compete with aesthetics of quaint, tree-lined private university properties of Tulane and Loyola.
Health-conscious students may shy away from the gastrocentric Vieux Carre but spots like Green Goddess and Robért’s Market offer plenty of healthy options. Bonus: The New Orleans Athletic Club on Rampart Street has a student discount and boasts its own historic (and Harry Potter-esque) library/workspace with free wifi and national news publications. Extra bonus? Year-round pool access is included in the membership.
Loyola senior Michele Canseco says she likes being a student residing in the French Quarter because of the quick accessibility to job opportunities it provides her.
“Whenever I have a break in semesters, I can always find shifts to pick up in the neighborhood because it’s just so busy. Some kids make minimum wage on campus and I think jobs here have more earning potential because of tourism,” she says.
“Look,” adds Quarter bartender John Ogletree, “I shouldn’t say this but having students mixing it up around here [The Quarter] ain’t a bad thing. It’s nice to see people with backpacks and books once in a while, but it probably makes more sense for graduate students than younger kids who have not yet lived on their own.”
View from the Vieux Carre: 55 Elysian Fields Bus Stop; photo by Veronika Lee