When many students first arrive at college, they come with the preconceived notion, “Well, it’s time to go into debt,” which can be entirely true.

Most colleges provide students with some sort of financial aid, but it is often not enough. Freshmen who are not from the Northern Virginia area typically live on campus, thinking this will save them money.

So is the notorious stereotype of “a poor college kid sitting in his dorm room eating a bowl of Ramen Noodles” accurate?

Studies have shown that among students studying at four-year universities, 65.6 percent have accumulated some debt by the time they graduate. In addition, the average amount of debt a student has accumulated after obtaining his bachelor’s degree is $27,803.

Naturally, it would make sense for universities to cut students a break, knowing that they will spend many years paying off their debt after they graduate.

However, it almost seems as if many universities —George Mason University included — do the opposite.

In examining the Mason campus alone, a student can see how this is true. In my opinion, food on campus is overpriced.

If a student goes into the One Stop Patriot Shop, he or she will purchase food that could have been purchased for much less at a local grocery store.

For example, a box of Pasta Roni is about $2.69 at the One Stop Patriot Shop, but costs 99 cents to $1.30 at a grocery store.

A student can purchase a NOS energy drink for approximately $4.19 at the One Stop, which would be about $2 less at a grocery store.

When I first came to Mason, many fellow students informed me that the Freedom Funds meal plan was the best. However, for students who have Freedom as opposed to a normal meal plan, Southside is $9 per person.

This price seems steep. If a student has money or “Freedom” left over at the end of the semester, the money is not forwarded to the next semester. The funds are just gone. So why should students want the Freedom Funds meal plan?

Why should a student fork over $1,500, only to spend it on overpriced food and groceries? It would make much more sense to just put this money on a debit card.

Students can use a debit card anywhere and their money will not disappear at the end of the semester. I believe that Freedom Funds is not freeing at all — it’s a way for students to accumulate more debt.

In some circumstances, living off campus and renting a townhouse or apartment in the Northern Virginia area can actually save students a lot of money.

Housing prices in the area do vary, but I can personally attest to the fact that by living off campus, I have spent six times less money than I did living on campus in Commonwealth. Mason truly should make an effort to help students spend less, not more.

At the bare minimum they should match the prices of their goods with those in local grocery stores. Yes, living on campus is convenient, but is it truly worth the extra money? Mason should consider lowering the cost of on-campus housing as well.

Even if they are only able to do so by a small amount, I believe that would really help students who are already accumulating significant debt during their college years.