Does Financial Aid Cover Housing? – Forbes Advisor

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The cost of attending college factors in living expenses, including housing, which can cost more than tuition in some cases.

When evaluating your full cost of attendance, remember to include housing costs in your budget. While financial aid covers housing, you might need to find additional ways to pay for all of your living expenses.

Financial Aid Can Cover Some Housing

Your total cost of attendance—which covers tuition, books, supplies, transportation and housing expenses—will vary based on the institution you’re enrolled in.

For instance, if you’re planning to attend a local school, your expenses will be different than someone enrolling out of state. Your cost of attendance is based on where you go to school, where you live right now and your Expected Family Contribution.

There’s a limit to how much federal financial aid you can get. As a result, you may not receive enough to cover housing and other expenses. Federal financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and you’ll likely receive more money if you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application in a timely manner.

Cost of Attendance Breakdown

When you live on-campus, your housing costs are incorporated into your cost of attendance. If there’s any money left over, you’ll get a check to cover any additional costs, like books or supplies.

If you live off-campus, your financial aid will cover all your school-related costs. If there are any costs remaining, you’ll receive a check to pay for it. As an off-campus student, you can use these funds to pay for off-campus housing, transportation and other needs.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost of attendance at the University of Georgia for an undergraduate:

What if My Financial Aid Isn’t Enough?

Federal financial aid consists of loans, grants and work-study programs. You’ll know how much money you’re eligible for when you receive your award letter, which offers a complete breakdown of your aid.

However, your award may not be enough to cover housing. First, check your eligibility for subsidized loans, which are only awarded based on need. First-year undergraduate students can only get up to $3,500 in subsidized loans, and the maximum amount you can get in combination with unsubsidized loans is $5,500.

If you run into funding issues and can’t afford to cover housing, consider these alternatives:

  • Living off-campus. If you can find an apartment near campus with a roommate, that’ll allow you to split home costs with someone else. If you can live at home with your family and commute to school, you might save a bit more. Even if you pay a little bit towards your home costs, you could save thousands annually by eliminating on-campus costs, like room, board, and some living expenses. Transportation costs might increase since you have to find a way to get on campus for class.
  • Apply for more free money. The more money you get in scholarships and grants, the less you’ll rely on student loans and paying out-of-pocket. Millions of dollars in scholarships are available annually and you might qualify for more than you think. Think about awards based on your major, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and more.
  • Submit an appeal. If you feel like you didn’t receive enough money in federal student aid, you can submit an appeal. Talk to your school’s financial aid office about documenting your appeal. If you’ve experienced an extreme hardship since your FAFSA was approved, you might qualify.
  • Look into emergency student loans. These short-term, interest-free loans cover unexpected events to keep students enrolled and attending classes. You can find these loans through your school, the state or some educational programs. Emergency loans tend to be small-dollar amounts, usually around $1,000 or less, with a short repayment period of 30 to 90 days.
  • Apply for private loans. After you’ve exhausted all your federal money options, you may want to explore private student loans. These loans are from private lenders, like banks, credit unions and online lenders. You can get a private student loan any time of the year, not just at certain times like with federal loans. However, private loans operate much differently than federal loans. For one, you don’t get federal benefits like deferment, forbearance or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. There are also no income-driven repayment plans available.

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Review Your Financial Aid Options To Cover Housing

If you’re not sure that your federal financial aid will pay for your entire cost of attendance, make sure you evaluate all your options. Apply for FAFSA as early as you can to maximize your award amount. You might be eligible for subsidized loans and you can use unsubsidized loans to cover additional costs.

After you’ve used all your federal aid options, look into private scholarships and explore alternative living situations. You might find living off-campus is less expensive than living on campus.

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