One of our readers recently messaged with the question, “Can I pay for off-campus housing with student loans.” What an excellent question! The short answer is: yes! Just remember, living off-campus can get expensive, as this New York Times article explains.
In the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)’s Statement of Educational Purpose, it is clearly stated that a college student may use their loans ” only to pay the cost of attending an institution of higher education.”
According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, “costs of attendance” are defined as:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board (including off-campus housing)
- Books and supplies
- Transportation (cost of travel to/from school, but not for purchase of a vehicle)
- Miscellaneous personal expenses
- Cost of rental or purchase of required equipment, materials and supplies
- Personal Computer (if enrolled at least half-time)
- Dependent care expenses
- Disability-related expenses
- Loan fees
- Licensing and certification fees for students enrolled in programs requiring the student to obtain professional licensure or certification
- Costs associated with a study abroad program approved for credit at the student’s home institution
- Expenses associated with a cooperative education program
Although the classic college experience is usually visualized by the dorm experience, there are many reasons to opt for off-campus housing, such as:
- Better Food: Living off-campus means having your own kitchen. You can cook whatever, and whenever, you like, at a cost much less that a typical meal plan. Proper nutrition is key to the best education, so if you don’t fancy eating powdered eggs for the next four years, this is a major plus.
- More Freedom: Dorms tend to have restrictive rules, such as curfews, and regulations about who can stay the night. Seeing as how many dorms cost as much as an apartment, why not go for the real thing and control your own destiny?
- Real Life Experience: College is supposed to prepare us for living in the real world. What good is all the academia if you never learn to pay a utility on time, how to construct a budget, or how to get along with people?
- Enduring Relationships: While living away from home, roommates can become your family. Going through college can be a stressful, life-altering experience, and having real, close relationships can help you both weather the storms and share in the victories!
- Privacy: Dorms can be extremely lacking in privacy, with people stacked on top of each other like sardines in a tin. Many people need the proper amount of space and quiet to really concentrate and focus on their studies. That’s why we go to college, after all!
How To Pay For Off-Campus Housing With Student Loans
The type of student loan you receive will determine your eligibility for paying for off-campus housing. Direct loans, as an example, are given to a college student as a direct deposit, to use as they see fit.
You may have to go into the financial aid office to see if your student loan can be adjusted to pay for off-campus housing. There is an upper cap on student loans, however, determined by your FAFSA, which will ultimately decide if you have enough left over to pay for off-campus housing. The FAFSA has a section asking whether you plan on living on-campus or not, so if you know ahead of time that you plan on living off-campus, make sure to include this on your student aid form, as students living off-campus tend to receive slightly more financial aid.
When you go into the financial aid office, bring a list of reasons why you think this housing is the best solution for your college career, including financial, social, and academic reasons. Present your case logically, which will show that you have really thought this through and are taking your studies seriously. Also bring a record of textbook costs and other expenses, to give the clearest and most detailed snapshot of your financial state. Institutions always appreciate this!
The financial aid office will most likely increase your loan based on what an average expected rent will be. Make sure to find a place that is within your budget, as you will have to pay back these loans later. This is the main thing to keep in mind when considering off-campus housing: you will essentially have to pay this rent back at a later date, with interest. Make sure it’s worth it! Also check in with your financial aid office, as certain schools have a list of acceptable properties that qualify for off-campus housing.
The other thing to consider is that student loan payments aren’t received until four weeks after the semester has begun, so make sure you save as much money as possible, if you are considering off-campus housing.
Thanks for the great question! Hope this helps! Got other questions for My First Apartment? Let us know in the comments!