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Colleges With Free Room And Board

January 28, 2019

When researching colleges, it’s equally important to look at rates for tuition and room and board. The average cost of room and board in 2018-2019 ranges from $8,660 at public, two-year colleges to $12,680 at private four-year colleges and universities. Second only to tuition, room and board is a significant expense that makes a college education almost unaffordable for some families. With an increasing number of colleges requiring students to live on campus, many families are looking for ways to save on room and board expenses during the academic year.

The following table outlines the cost of room and board in public and private universities offering undergraduate degrees. Room and board rates have increased in both the public and private sector from the 2017-2018 to the 2018-2019 academic year.

Average Cost of Room and Board


Private, four-year

Public, four-year

Public, two-year









Source: College Board Trends in College Pricing 2018

Although federal financial aid covers room and board, in some cases, the cost of a full meal plan and room are still unaffordable. Fortunately, some colleges recognize this prohibitive cost and have taken measures to help college more affordable. Several four-year colleges in the United States offer free room and board scholarships. If you’re looking for a way to save on college expenses in the coming years, one of the following universities may be a good fit for you.

Northeast Catholic College - New Hampshire

Northeast Catholic College is a coeducational liberal arts college in Warner, New Hampshire. The school offered an $8,000 room and board scholarship to freshman and transfer students enrolling by August 2018 for the 2018-2019 academic year. This scholarship covers the full cost of room and board for the 2018-2019 academic year, which is estimated at exactly $8,000 in the cost of attendance. The residence halls at Northeast Catholic College feature shared private bathrooms for roommates. Rooms are furnished, and students have access to common rooms, recreation rooms, and exercise facilities. You can follow the college social media and newsletters to find out if the scholarship will be offered again in the upcoming academic year.

College of the Redwoods - California

College of the Redwoods is a public, two-year college located in the city of Eureka in Northern California. Though most two-year colleges don’t offer housing, the college recognized a need after a growing number of students were either homeless or experiencing housing insecurity and created the Redwoods Room & Board Scholarship Fund. The semester-long scholarship provides a room in the dorm and campus meal plan and can be renewed if needed. Students are required to contribute $50 month towards the dorm to build a rental history, which will help them to eventually secure off-campus housing.

What are other options if I can’t afford Room and Board?

Very few colleges offer scholarships and assistance beyond federal financial aid. However, there are ways to make room and board expenses more affordable. You can become a Resident Advisor (RA) in a dorm, a responsibility which usually comes with free or reduced room and board. If you have any interest in joining the military, you could attend a military school, which offers free tuition and room and board. Another option instead of a room in a residence hall is renting a campus apartment, which typically allows monthly payments instead of the lump sum payments required by residence halls. Monthly rent payments would be more manageable with a part-time job.

The most important thing to do if you are having trouble affording housing is to talk to your institution’s financial aid office. College of the Redwoods’ room and board scholarship was created when the need for housing was brought to the attention of the university leadership. With continued awareness of student issues and the challenges of finding affordable room and board, generating awareness could lead to more assistance with room and board costs for students.