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How to Pay For Housing

By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: April 1st, 2024
How to Pay For Housing

Tuition is not the only expense to consider when you are trying to finance your college education; housing is also a significant expense. Knowing how to pay for housing well in advance is important. Room and board at most colleges costing upwards of $10,000 per year. At New York University, the 2024-2025 room and board fee is nearly $25,000

Luckily, many colleges and universities offer alternatives to their standard housing plans. In this article, we help you assess housing options and show you the best ways to chip away at housing costs, including housing scholarships.

See also: What is room and board for college?

Consider off-campus housing

Colleges vary widely in their attitudes towards off-campus housing. Some colleges have no on-campus housing, while others require that students live on-campus for the duration of their studies. If off-campus housing is an option for your upcoming school year, it could end up being cheaper than student housing. Here is a guide to help walk you through the steps of finding off-campus housing.

1. Determine the cost

Try searching sites like Craigslist and Zillow to get a general idea of the cost of rent in the area. Then, compare it to the cost of on-campus housing. In small towns, off-campus apartments or houses are often less expensive than college-provided housing.  But you should make sure to factor in the price of utilities like electric, water, internet, and gas, to ensure that you will actually save money. If you choose a home that is far from campus, factor in transportation costs as well.

Related: Where can I find student rent assistance?

2. Check for changes in your financial aid package

Choosing to live off-campus will adjust your cost-of-living estimate in your financial aid package. This should not be a problem as long as the estimate is equal to or higher than your actual cost of living. But if it is lower, your aid package may not cover you for as much as you are spending. Make sure to contact your financial aid office to ensure that you will not lose aid money by choosing to live off-campus.

3. Find roommates

Try posting to your class Facebook page to find roommates. This is an easy way to find a roommate who you have something in common with, especially if you are just starting school and don’t know anyone at the school yet. Many schools also have resources on their website to help students find off-campus housing. If you have a student advisor or peer leader, you can reach out to them for resources as well.

Further reading: How to find roommates

4. Determine how to pay for your housing

Off-campus housing is considered an expense of attending college. Therefore, financial aid and student loans can both be applied to your off-campus housing costs. 529 plans can also be used to pay for off-campus housing, provided the cost is equal to or lower than accommodations offered by your school. Work study is another valuable resource to help you pay for your housing.

Read more: Do you qualify for the Pell Grant?

Consider living at a co-op or other alternative housing

Co-ops and other alternative housing are great opportunities to reduce the cost of housing and facilitate a unique college experience. Here are the facts about co-ops:

  • They can be school-owned, independent, or part of regional or national co-op organizations
  • Co-ops often provide work for their students, which can help you offset a significant portion of your housing costs.
  • Many co-ops prepare food for the student population and are subsidized by the school for doing so.  
  • If you are looking to save money on housing and would be open to living and working in an environment like this, you can ask admissions officers or other students about co-op organizations at your college.

Read more: Top need-based scholarships

Apply for scholarships!

Many scholarships can be applied towards housing as well as tuition. Try out our scholarship search tool to find scholarships that are a good match for you. By applying to these opportunities, you can chip away at your college costs and make it easier to pay for housing. 

See also: Top scholarships for college students

Become a Residential Advisor

Many schools offer free or heavily discounted housing to residential advisors. Residential advisors help keep college housing in good shape and provide a resource for the residents of their floor or designated area. Some colleges even offer pay on top of the free housing; this can be one of the best-paying jobs offered at a college.

Feedback from a former resident advisor

Working as an RA put a serious dent into my college expenses. My room fee was completely waived in exchange for working as an RA, saving me and my family $6,000 a year! I also received a monthly stipend of $300 for books and other personal expenses. In total, I saved over $21,000 and had an impressive leadership position to add to my resume!
Will Geiger

CEO and co-founder of Scholarships360

Wake Forest University

Consider living at home

Some students are limited by finances and unable to afford housing costs. This should not inhibit you from attending college; it’s worth considering college options that you could attend while living at home. Many students attend college from home, and still receive a great education that opens doors for their futures!

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Check out off-campus options if allowed to live off-campus
  • Double check that living off campus won’t affect your financial aid package
  • Use available resources, including your college, to find the best roommates
  • Do you research on whether co-ops are offered and might be a fit for you
  • Have a nice home life and don’t live too far from campus? Thinking about living at home! 
Key Takeaways

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