Many students find that their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is much higher than anticipated, and they are left with an unmet need. While tuition and fees can’t be negotiated or reduced, there are ways to find affordable housing. If you find that your financial aid award does not cover your room and board expenses, here are a few options to consider.
Appeal Your Financial Aid Award
A lot of students don’t know that you can appeal your financial aid award. When you receive a college acceptance letter, you will typically receive a letter that also states your financial aid award. However, if your financial aid award does not cover your expenses, consider making an appeal. In a financial aid appeal, you can present your reasons for financial hardship and evidence of that hardship. In some cases, your school may be able to allocate more financial aid for your education.
Northeast Catholic College in New Hampshire and College of the Redwoods in California are just two of many colleges that offer housing assistance to students in the form of room and board scholarships. If your university has a Housing Assistance office, they may be able to help you find affordable housing and additional scholarships and grants to afford the cost of living expenses.
Private Student Loans
If you’ve been offered the maximum financial aid award and it meets your cost of attendance, you may still find you have unmet need, especially if you are attending college out of state. Another option to consider is a private student loan. In some cases, the private student loan may be sent directly to you to use for living expenses. Since the government does not regulate private student loans, private lenders are not obligated to offer repayment plans and other assistance programs. If you choose to use a private loan, be sure to research repayment terms and proceed with caution.
Students living in the residence halls are usually required to pay for their housing in one lump sum for the semester or quarter, which requires thousands of dollars upfront. However, many campus-owned apartments permit students to pay monthly and still enjoy the benefits of living on campus, including an all-inclusive rental fee. If you can get a campus-owned apartment, covering your living expenses may be possible with a part-time job as you can spread the payments out over the semester.
If you haven’t yet started college, there’s still time to save with a 529 college savings plan. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged investment account. You deposit after-tax dollars into the account and earnings accrue tax-free. When you need the money for college expenses, you can use it for a variety of qualified higher education expenses, including room and board (up to the estimated cost of attendance). Putting aside money in a 529 plan is a smart option for middle-class families that may not qualify for enough federal aid, but cannot afford to pay college expenses out of pocket.
Commit and Apply for Room and Board Early
The best way to ensure you have access to optimal housing is to apply for room and board early. When submitting your application, do your research on living on vs. off-campus to determine the most affordable living option at each university to which you’ve applied. Students who commit to a college or university early will have more housing options.