By the numbers

The Average cost that students pay for off-campus housing, as of April 2010:

Studio apartment: $708 per unit

1-bed apartment: $838 per unit

2-bed apartment: $1169 per unit, $584 per room

3-bed apartment: $1701 per unit, $567 per room

4-bed apartment: $2249 per unit, $562 per room

House on the Hill: about $800 per room

Masala House: about $410 per room

Source: Off-Campus Student Services and Boulder Housing Coalition.

While many students yearn for their independence and flee the dorms for their own space, others -- like University of Colorado junior Daniel Daenen -- seek community and companionship in Boulder's co-op housing.

Daenen, 22, has lived in co-op housing for more than five years and is one of three CU students living in the Masala house, a cooperative-living residence just north of the Hill.

Masala is Boulder Housing Coalition's first co-op, started in 2000, and houses 12 residents in a 3,300 square-foot home. The home has 11 bedrooms and four bathrooms, said Lincoln Miller, BHC's executive director and Masala resident.

The BHC has since opened a second housing co-op, Chrysalis, located downtown and is currently looking for a location for a third.

Other community housing options exist in Boulder, including co-housing complexes with individual units, similar to apartments and unofficial co-ops.

Boulder resident Karl Hanzel, 50, is looking for two roommates to help maintain his eco-friendly home near the foothills.

"It's about the financial help, but also the community aspect," Hanzel said. "I don't just want roommates but someone who can share in the maintenance duties and upkeep."

Hanzel said he's been sharing a home with roommates for years, but rarely sees interest from CU students because of the responsibilities involved.

Each resident has their own room, varying in size and rent. The bathrooms and common living spaces -- like the basement, family room, yard and kitchen -- are shared among the tenants.

"We're social creatures and I think co-op living makes for healthier, more well-adjusted, more supportive people," Daenen said. "It's just about people wanting to get along and take care of each other."

Chores, maintenance duties and cooking responsibilities are divided among residents and organized on a whiteboard.

Masala residents said the community aspect is the biggest advantage to co-op living, but it may be a turn off for many CU students searching for freedom.

Michelle Willett, marketing publications coordinator for CU's Off-Campus Student Services, said the responsibility of co-op living is too familiar for students who have only recently moved away from their parents.

"I think many students don't inquire about that living situation, because they're excited to experience something outside the residence halls," Willett said. "To have that responsibility instead of having assigned duties and chores is part of the off-campus living experience. It's the freedom of living on your own."

Rebecca Bratburd, CU grad student and Masala's newest resident, said the house's formal guidelines and organized system help the residents remain community-minded.

"It helps that there are already expectations and guidelines," Bratburd said. "With 12 people in a house, it can be chaotic."

Willett said they rarely have students inquire about co-op housing options.

Some students might find the idea foreign, but others are living a similar lifestyle with a less-formal, organized system.

Students living in Greek houses or with several roommates in a rental house often split chores and household responsibilities.

"Anyone can do this with the right motivation," Bratburd said. "I've lived in houses with nine other girls and it was fine. We still had some rules but they just weren't as organized."

Willett said while the chores may not attract some students, the lower cost of living might be appealing to self-sufficient students who are looking for cheaper housing options.

For a house on the Hill, students can expect to pay a monthly rent, ranging from about $562 to $800 per room (not including utilities), according to April 2010 apartment estimates from Off-Campus Student Services.

Masala monthly rates range from $375 to more than $600 per room, depending on the size and location of the space. A $90 utility fee is required and each resident pays $150 food cost, which is used to purchase local, organic and vegetarian food.

"We eat together at least five times a week," Daenen said. "We sit down and share meals together like a family."