Campus vs. Off-Campus Housing & Cost of Attendance

Your college cost of attendance is dependent on how you indicate housing on the FAFSA. Also, did you know that the cost of attendance could increase or decrease if housing were to change? When completing the FASFA, if the student indicated they are an on-campus dorm student but later change to commuter status, their cost of attendance would be reduced. Ultimately, changing the cost of attendance may affect a students eligibility for some financial aid.

Here are some things to consider…

Housing Choices Within the FAFSA

The FASFA specifically asks about your college living arrangements. It provides a drop down menu where the student selects on-campus, with parent, or off-campus. When the school receives the FAFSA, including the student housing choice, it constructs a cost of attendance to account for particular expenses.

Housing Choice Impacts The Cost of Attendance

  • On-Campus: This will carry the highest cost of attendance due to dorm costs and the cost of a mandatory meal plan.
  • Off-Campus: This figure can vary. Generally, it will be lower than the cost of dorms but higher than living at home.
  • With Parents: The commuter student generally has the lowest cost of attendance with reduced room and board costs. However, the portion of the cost of attendance used for transportation will be slightly higher.

Housing Choice Impacts Financial Aid Eligibility

Financial aid is awarded dependent on financial need. Financial need determines eligibility for certain funding sources. It follows a particular equation: Cost of attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need.

If the student selects a housing option that would increase their cost of attendance this would cause an increase in financial need and may allow more financial aid to be made available.

Filing the FASFA For On-Campus Students

Students must file the FAFSA each year of college to qualify for financial aid. On the FAFSA, the student can choose their housing option. The financial aid office will add funding accordingly. It’s especially important for incoming freshman to take a good look at potential available funding by their housing choice. Some students file the FAFSA as a dorm student to see the maximum amount of funding available. If it’s sufficient, living at the dorms may be economical. If the funding increase is not enough, then request to be re-packaged as a commuter student and save some money. Additionally, if the school only awards increased Parent PLUS loans to fund the extra dorm costs, it’s probably not economical. Ultimately, students should first be looking to increase grants if they have an increased financial need.

Filing the FASFA For Off-Campus Students

An appeal process can adjust calculations on off-campus housing costs. Notably, this may be important for adult and continuing students who tackle going back to school while facing reduced income. To make an adjustment, contact the school’s financial aid office to verify the cost of attendance. This includes components for off-campus room, board, miscellaneous and transportation expenses. If the student has documentation proving that these costs are actually greater than what the school has estimated, the student may appeal. The appeal should simply explain that a reevaluation of the cost of attendance must be considered including the additional documented expenses. The student may qualify for other funding sources if they have increased financial need.

Make the Best Decision for YOU

Now that you’re aware of the implications your housing choice can have financially, weigh all of your options to choose the best one for you! Some student’s may value the college experience because it includes living in on-campus housing. Don’t let a lack of finances stop you from attaining your dream college experience. Look for free money and additional aid with a Private Student Loan. LendKey offers great resources to educate you on everything private student loans and get you started. Check it out today and begin your ideal college journey.



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