Room and Board – How Can I Cut the Cost?

If you’ve taken a look at the financial aid offer from your college of choice, you may have been surprised by the cost of room and board for one year of school. Your ‘room and board’ estimate includes the cost of living in your choice of housing and the cost of food during that year.

Check out these tips to cutting costs on room and board.

Housing

  • Consider how much money you could save by living at home for another year or two. Nearby community colleges usually charge lower tuition, and they offer the same general education courses required at four-year universities. Add in your savings on room and board, and you’ve got a total cost of attendance that looks a lot more manageable.
  • Living on campus? Living with a roommate can reduce the cost of room and board significantly. Pay close attention to deadlines for submitting your housing application each year, and then turn it in ASAP—before the deadline. It’s not unusual for lower-priced housing to get snatched up more quickly.
  • Living off campus? As a general rule, apartments and houses located close to the campus will charge higher rent than those located farther away. Consider having two or three roommates if you have the space.

Where to eat

  • Colleges and universities offer various types of meal plans to their students and are often required for those who live on campus. Consider trying one of the less expensive plans (fewer meals every week) and try to prepare more meals in your dorm room, apartment, or off-campus rental. Maybe your roommate would agree to split the cost of non-perishable bulk foods that you both use frequently. Clip coupons for even more savings.
  • Limit eating out. Consider inviting friends over for a potluck or ask them to bring sharable snacks.

Other ways to manage college expenses

  • Submit a FAFSA each year to see how much financial aid you may receive.
  • Don’t miss out on free money. There are scholarships available every semester, so don’t forget to search for them in the fall and in the spring. UCanGo2.org and OKcollegestart.org are two great places to start your scholarship search.
  • Consider riding your bike and using public transportation. Larger schools often have their own low-cost transit systems. Many college students leave their cars at home.
  • Graduate on time to reduce the total cost of completing your program.
  • Earn some money. Check on work-study jobs or find a part-time job in town.
  • Stay away from credit cards. The interest is high, and they make it much too easy to overspend.

For more ideas on reducing college costs, be sure to read the Getting Through College on Less section on OklahomaMoneyMatters.org.

Homelessness and Special Circumstances

Everyone should have access to higher education! If someone you know is experiencing homelessness or has a special circumstance they’re dealing with, there are resources to help them on their academic and financial journey.

The first step all college-bound seniors should take, regardless of their personal circumstance, is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. This form is an annual application for federal and state financial assistance for college.

On this application, students will be asked a series of questions to determine their dependency status. If a student is independent, they won’t need to provide parental information on the FAFSA. If a student is experiencing homelessness they will not need to provide parental information, however, they should talk to their college financial aid office to confirm their living arrangements. Federal Student Aid defines a homeless student as someone who lacks “fixed, regular and adequate housing.”

Talk to your high school counselor! Counselors can work with the homeless student liaison assigned to their school for the appropriate documentation. Many counselors also know of local resources to assist homeless students in meeting their basic needs.

Check out StudentAid.gov for information on all types of funding for college. On this site, common questions are addressed about homeless youth and federal financial aid.

What about special circumstances? Students who aren’t homeless, but are unable to provide parental information will indicate they have a “special circumstance” on their FAFSA. This allows students to skip the parent portion of the form. They will, however, be required to provide documentation confirming their special circumstance before financial aid is approved and awarded.

Special circumstances can include escaping an abusive home environment, the inability to contact parents, the students’ parents being incarcerated, parents who refuse to provide their information on the FAFSA, and more. Be careful! If a student CAN provide their parental information at a later date, they should NOT select “special circumstance.” Otherwise, they may only be eligible to receive unsubsidized student loans. When in doubt, students should talk with their college financial aid officer to explain the situation.

Find on-campus resources! Many college campuses have resources to help students access year-round housing, food banks and academic support groups. Check with the Office of Resident Life on-campus to discover available resources.

Here are some additional resources for students experiencing homelessness:

Pivot works with young people lacking stability in their lives. Oklahoma students in need of housing and assistance should check out Pivot. https://www.pivotok.org/

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY): This program connects students with resources that can help them be successful throughout every year of school. Learn more about the program at NAEHCY.org.

National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE): NCHE offers an educational helpline for students experiencing homelessness. See how their helpline can guide you at NCHE.ed.gov.

Local Family and Youth Services: Family and Youth Services agencies provide living arrangement resources for homeless students. Find your local Family and Youth Services office at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/fysb.

Call 2-1-1: This hotline helps students locate assistance with shelters, food and other support groups.

Don’t Rely on Luck to Pay Your Way

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow to help you pay for college?  As luck would have it, a free ride to college just isn’t in the cards for most folks. Your next best bet is to submit the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. By submitting the FAFSA, you’re able to determine how much federal and state aid you may be eligible to receive to help pay for college.

Already submitted the FAFSA? It’s never too late to start applying for scholarships. Be sure to take advantage of the helpful information provided in UCanGo2’s Scholarship Success Guide to help you as you go.

Also check out these websites for scholarship opportunities: UCanGo2. org and OKcollegestart.org.

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