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Does Financial Aid Cover Room And Board?

January 28, 2019

When researching the cost of college, most people focus on tuition rates. However, the total cost of college is based on all expenses including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and even things like internet and transportation to get to and from your college housing to classes. In short, financial aid does cover the cost of room and board up to certain limits. Here’s what you need to know.

Financial  Aid Covers Room and Board (Up to Cost of Attendance)

Each academic year, every college and university that distributes federal financial aid publishes a cost of attendance list. This cost of attendance is an average of what it costs to attend the college for one year. Every college has a slightly different list, but most lists include tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies.

The University of Central Florida

Tuition and Fees


Room and Board






Texas A&M University - College Station



Resident living with Parents


Tuition & Fees




Loan Fees




Housing & Meals




Books & Supplies








Personal Expenses








The tables above show just how different the cost of attendance can be from one school to another. The cost of attendance at the University of Central Florida publishes one rate for room and board for all students, while the cost of attendance at Texas A&M lists different rates depending on the student’s living situation. This difference in rates is important because it ultimately affects the size of the financial aid reward.

Living On-Campus

If you live on-campus, the rules are a bit flexible. You can choose from any on-campus options, including single or shared dorms and meal plans. The cost will typically be covered by financial aid. In most cases, the university will work with you to find an affordable option. At the beginning of each semester, the university will receive your financial aid and use it to pay tuition and fees and room and board. Any additional amount left over will be sent to you via check to purchase books and other necessities published in the cost of attendance. For example, a small amount for personal funds is typically included in the cost of attendance.

Living Off-Campus

If you live off-campus, your financial aid is processed differently. The college or university that you attend will receive your financial aid award. The award will first be applied to tuition and fees. The remaining balance will be sent to you via check to cover housing, food, books, and other expenses. Since you are living off-campus, you can also use the funding to pay for utilities, groceries, and other household costs, such as toilet paper, which would usually be covered if you lived on-campus.

When choosing an apartment off-campus, it’s important to remember to find something within the budgeted cost of attendance. Some universities publish a separate cost of attendance for students living off-campus, which is usually less than the budget for students living on-campus. You can only use your financial aid up to the amount specified in the cost of attendance. For example, if you want to rent an off-campus apartment for $15,000 per year, and your financial aid only covers $10,000 per year, you’ll have to pay the remainder out of pocket.

Resources to Understand Living Expenses

If you are unsure of the cost of attendance or what your financial aid will cover, there are two resources on campus. The first place is the financial aid office, which can clarify the allowance you will receive for on-campus or off-campus room and board fees. The second place to go for assistance is the housing assistance office, which can help with finding affordable living options.