Living in Chicago on a Graduate Salary - By Robert English


The first question you might have as a prospective graduate student is whether it is feasible to live in Chicago on the stipends awarded by the UIC doctoral program in philosophy.

As a graduate student doing so, I can happily say that the answer is “yes”. The cost of living in Chicago is relatively affordable in comparison to other major metropolitan centers in the US. Rent, although varying by neighborhood, is generally reasonable – especially if you have a roommate. UIC offers graduate student housing (, and the UIC Housing website has helpful information including a thread to post ads for roommates and apartments for grad students who choose to live off-campus (

Perks like the unlimited CTA pass during the semester and CampusCare health insurance, both available at a good price and included among fees, also keep monthly expenditures low. With a little budgeting, I find that it isn't difficult to live comfortably.

Also, many of Chicago's social and cultural opportunities are affordable to graduate students. Both the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for example, offer discounted student rates. So even highbrow entertainment is well within reach. A wealth of other activities in the city are accessible to grad students as well: Chicago's famous comedy and blues clubs, excellent food and drink, running and biking trails along the lake shore, and city parks. Most, if not all, museums have a free night, and if you have a Chicago library card you can get a pass to any museum.

Getting by in the city as a grad student does require strategy and planning, though. It is a good idea to start looking for apartments and potential roommates early, and to familiarize yourself with Chicago to get a sense of which neighborhoods are a fit for you ( Our department asks a current graduate student to act as a Graduate Admission Liaison, who will be very happy to discuss in greater detail questions about living in the city as a graduate student, such as extracurricular activities, expenses, neighborhood characteristics, travel in the city, and so on.

Chicago is also bicycle-friendly. Traveling by bicycle is a good way to keep costs down in the summer when the unlimited CTA pass does not apply: (https://, (http:// If you don't have a bicycle, affordable ones are fairly easy to come by in Chicago: (http://, (, ( Below is a list of common utility providers' websites that will enable you to get a sense of utility costs:


People's Gas:






Feel free to ask the department administrator, Valerie Brown, for contact information for the acting Graduate Admissions Liaison, who can answer any questions about the department and living in the city as seen from a grad student's perspective.