Do You Have to Pay Room and Board If You Live at Home?

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Do You Have to Pay Room and Board if You Live at Home?

Given that it is one of the highest expenses for college students, it’s not surprising that students have questions about room and board fees. Many students mistakenly believe that they have to pay room and board fees even if they live at home.

This misconception may stem from the fact that institutions list rent and food costs under cost of attendance for students who live at home. This estimate of what it would cost to pay for room and board is factored into your cost of attendance. If you receive a federal financial aid award, this amount will be included in your award, less your Expected Family Contribution.

Though most students are mistaken about being required to pay for room and board, on-campus residency requirements are a fact and point of contention at some institutions. Some 87 private and public universities have strict residency rules requiring students to live on-campus through their junior year. For example, Duke University requires freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to live on campus.

However, most colleges have an exception for students who live nearby. Georgetown University has a similar requirement, which is waived for students who are married, have dependents, transferred to the university, or live locally. If you’re a local student, you may consider applying for an exception to an on-campus residency requirement at your school.

How is Federal Aid Calculated for Students who Live at Home?

Room and board expenses are just one expense factored into the cost of attendance. For students who live on campus, calculating room and board is simply the cost of the housing plan, plus the cost of the meal plan, but for students who live off-campus there are different models. Many colleges calculate three separate costs of attendance, for students who live off-campus with their parents, live off-campus in their own apartment, and live on-campus. The chart below shows room and board estimates for students at the University of California Riverside.





































Source: University of California Riverside,

The chart above is typical of how many schools calculate the room and board portion of the cost of attendance. Students who live on campus get the highest allowance, while off-campus students receive less funding for room and board. Students who live at home receive the lowest estimate for room and board. In the above example for students enrolled at the University of California Riverside, students living at home receive less than half of the room and board allowance of students living in the residence halls.

Should You Live at Home to Save Money on Room and Board Costs?

Given that the average cost of room and board is around $10,000, you could save just that much and even more on hidden costs by living at home. For example, expenses like laundry, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies could cost hundreds of dollars each year.

There are some pitfalls to living at home. Sometimes the familiarity and comfort of living at home makes it difficult to stay disciplined. If you have a large family or many younger siblings, it won’t always be easy to find a quiet place and time to study for challenging college courses. For some students, independence and quiet space is essential to their success during college, and living on-campus is the best option.

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