Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
Using Student Loans for Off-Campus Housing
Living off-campus can give students freedom and allow them to experience being on their own. However, off-campus housing comes with different costs than living in a dorm. Some students may choose to use student loans for off-campus housing expenses. Here are some things to keep in mind when using student loans to live off-campus!
Related: How to pay for housing
Cost of attendance
Colleges offer financial aid based on the estimated cost of attendance. The cost of attendance includes the expenses of tuition, fees, supplies, room and board, transportation, and more. Oftentimes when students take out a loan, it is based on the cost of attendance. A good rule of thumb is to check the school’s housing allowance, and try to stay near that amount when borrowing loans for off-campus housing. Be cautious of luxury apartments targeted at students, as they can be quite expensive. For comparison, the average cost of on-campus housing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is $3,438 per student per semester ($6,876/year) for a double occupancy room. For a private university like Wake Forest, the average cost is $5,072 per semester for a total of $10,144 per year.
Both federal loans from FAFSA and private loans can be used to pay for off-campus housing because it is included in the cost of attendance. It’s helpful to decide if you want to live on- or off-campus as soon as possible so that it can be factored into your FAFSA. Living off-campus raises the cost of attendance and may result in more financial aid.
See also: How to complete the FAFSA
Student loan refunds
One of the more common uses of a student loan refund is to pay for off-campus housing. Refunds can be used for other expenses associated with living off-campus such as utilities, groceries, and transportation. It’s easy to use a student loan refund for off-campus housing. Once you receive the refund check, deposit the money to your bank account and pay from there.
See also: What to do with a student loan refund check
Always borrow loans conservatively, and try to avoid relying solely on loans to pay for living expenses. When borrowing loans for off-campus housing, be aware that there are additional expenses associated with living off-campus. These expenses include utilities, transportation, WiFi, parking, and furniture, to name a few. Most apartments and houses also include a security deposit equal to one month’s rent.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that student loans are disbursed to your school first to pay for tuition and fees. The amount that you borrow may not be the whole amount that you receive to pay for living expenses. Additionally, student loans are disbursed once per semester. Be sure to budget accordingly to stretch your loans for as long as possible.
Lastly, when it comes to budgeting, be sure to consider the area you’re living in. Larger cities can have more costly off-campus housing. On the flip side, it may be cheaper to live off-campus than in dorms in a smaller town.
See also: How to create a budget as a college student
How to use student loans to pay for off-campus housing
Using student loans for off-campus housing is a simple process.
- Deposit your student loan refund check or receive direct disbursement to your account
- Write a check or make payments for rent and other expenses as you normally would with your own money
- Keep an eye on your account and budget appropriately to ensure you have enough funds to pay for the whole semester
- Use the funds only for essentials related to your education
Remember, student loans are not “free” money. Any funds that you use for housing costs will have to be repaid with interest. However, if you budget your funds and make good financial decisions, you will be able to live off-campus with your student loans!
Frequently asked questions
Can I use Sallie Mae student loans for off-campus housing?
You can use Sallie Mae loans for educational expenses, including tuition, fees, and housing, whether it is on-campus or off-campus. So, you will be able to put them towards off-campus housing if you decide to.
Can I use federal student loans for off-campus housing?
Yes – you can use federal student loans to pay for your off-campus housing. Just make sure you receive documentation of your housing expenses so you can prove that it went towards an approved educational expense. This can be in the form of rent statements from your landlord.
Does FAFSA cover housing?
Federal aid from the FAFSA does cover housing, whether it is on-campus or off-campus. Your housing cost is factored into your estimated cost of attendance, so it is used to help calculate your EFC, or Expected Family Contribution.
What can I do with leftover student loan money?
If you have leftover student loan money, your best bet is to pay it back! Unless you are in need of the funds for other educational expenses, you’ll thank yourself later. Paying it back means that you will have less to pay back once you’ve graduated, and you’ll pay back less interest in total.