Federal Financial Aid and Off Campus Housing

July 3, 2012

There are some restrictions to federal financial aid, and while it does cover the cost of tuition, fees, textbooks and school supplies, housing is another issue. There is no rule against off-campus housing for those who use federal financial aid. In fact, it may be a better situation to live off-campus, even cheaper. Many students choose off campus housing because there is more privacy and larger space. However, it's important to live within the means of your financial aid and stretch your budget to ensure that you can afford off campus living while just earning financial aid in college.

Are There Any Restrictions?

If you receive federal grants to pay for school supplies and housing, then you have nothing to worry about. There are no limitations or restrictions as to where a student can live while receiving federal student aid. In fact, Pell Grant is supposed to cover tuition, books and housing. However, the payment amounts and how you receive your payments will be different. If you live on campus, the payment goes directly to the school. If you live off campus, the money left over after tuition and fees goes directly to the student to spend on housing and other school supplies.

Choosing to Live On-Campus

When you fill out a FAFSA, you do have to include the amount of tuition and what that will cover, as well as if you plan on living on campus or off campus. The amount a college receives through the financial aid check will include the cost of living on campus or in a college dorm, if you check that's what you want. The amount that is left over is referred to as the "student loan refund." This is the amount that can be used for whatever the student needs for school, which may include books or other living expenses.

Choosing to Life Off-Campus

You don't have to live on campus to receive financial aid through the government. You'll receive Pell Grant funding even if you choose to live off campus. You have to estimate your living costs, including monthly rent, on your FAFSA. When you live off campus, the student's check is given to the student aid office with rental and living costs included. However, the refund amount will be much larger because the aid is going to directly to the student to pay for housing. The only thing deducted from the check is the tuition and fee money.

Other Things to Consider

There are much cheaper and bigger space options if you choose to live off campus. You can find roommates, live in a big house and enjoy a large amount of space without the cramped living quarters, lack of privacy and just general noise of a dorm. It's the best option for a student to get a roommate or a few different roommates who can chip on a monthly rent.

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