Hey there Red!
First of all, I'd just like to state that the most important thing to remember here is your personal comfort. I therefore, suggest that you go to various bicycle shops near you and just start riding different bikes. From doing that, you should be able to better gauge the difference in various riding postures. You should also be better at determining whether you prefer the "feel" of an aluminum bike over that of a steel bike, or vice versa.
IMHO there's no better feel than having a chromoly
steel-framed bicycle. A chromoly
steel framed bicycle will last for many decades to come, if kept dry. Nobody can really say that about any other type of bicycle frame material, other than titanium ($$$).
For local traveling on and around campus, a good hybrid bicycle to suggest, would be either the Jamis Coda Sport femme
model or the Coda Comp femme
model. Both are very fast bikes and are extremely comfortable. Both models have the capacity to sport racks and fenders. You might want to tie your books or perhaps a few grocery items to your rack. Your fenders will ensure you that your clothes remain unsoiled when taking that slow roll through shallow mud puddles when caught in the rain. Of course, neither of the Codas come complete with these accessories. However, you'll always have the option of adding them later. The Codas also come with the ability to change tire widths. You can go from 25mm up to 38mm in tire width, if you wish. That's a really good tire width range!
If there is no Jamis dealership near you, allow me to suggest your nearest Raleigh dealer. They have what's known as the Ladies Classic Roadster
model, that's entirely within your budget and does come complete with fenders. It also has a chromoly
Things to Remember:
1) Get a bike with a chromoly
steel frame (if you wish).
2) Get a bike with shifters.
3) Thinner tires with no tread, means faster.
4) Wider tires and deeper tread, means slower.
* But more comfortable and more adaptable to diverse road surfaces*
5) The Codas can be fitted with a wide range of tire widths.
6) The Codas can be fitted with a rack and fenders, after market.
7) Aluminum has a much shorter fatigue life than steel and is more subject to permanent damage due to road hazards. ie..Potholes, road debris, cracks in the road, and accidents. Steel tends to better survive accidents!
8) Get a New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock.
9) Respect the Elderly and Don't do drugs!
10) Protect all that Math....Buy a helmet!