Going away to college or university means finding a suitable place to stay, and often as inexpensively as possible. Does it make sense to buy something instead of renting?
When I went off to school at BYU my grandfather had purchased a condominium for his grandchildren to stay in while they were going through school. I still had to pay rent but had the option of subletting two of the three bedrooms to cover my rent. I wish I still had a copy of that first lease agreement that I drafted up. It contained a fair bit of ideology for my tenants to comply with.
That initial opportunity to be property manager on a very small scale was an excellent introduction into business and real estate contracts. Aside from the excellent education it would provide your son on daughter as they head into their years of higher education consider the following rules of thumb on renting versus buying during the college years.
I lifted the chart above from a book written by the founders of Zillow back in 2014. They did some statistical analysis of the the amount of time it has taken to figure out how long someone needs to plan staying in a house in order to make financial sense of a purchase. Unfortunately not all of the areas of the country are represented here but it gives a general idea that you'd have to plan to stick around for 2.3 years in order to break even on a property. So if you plan to take four year four or five years in school, and remain in the same residence for the duration. It generally would allow you to break even and in most cases realize some appreciation on on the investment.
While this may be the case, comparing the amount of money you are willing to pay in rent for housing relates to the anticipated cash outflows for owning a property, would need to be a part of the decision process. At Colorado Mesa University the housing cost without a meal plan per semester is 3,400, or 6,800 per year. That works out to be $567/ month. For that monthly amount, assuming you are by yourself and $250/ month of utilities, maintenance and taxes, would afford a house that is worth $61,000, however if you anticipated sharing the space with three other students that number would jump to $278,000. As of January 2017 the average sale price in Grand Junction is $233,000. So if your destination is Grand Junction Colorado, and assuming you have a couple friends to room with, there are homes available that would be within the budget.
In my opinion, if you want the experience of owning property, have three years to go in college, feel comfortable filling rooms with roommates, and have a down payment, then buying makes sense when looking for college housing.