Saving on Room and Board at College

The financial aid offers from the colleges that received your FAFSA results will indicate the cost of room and board as part of the overall cost of attendance (COA) at their school for one year.

Room and board usually include the cost of housing and meals while living on campus. Besides tuition, room and board is sometimes one of the more expensive items on the list. There are, however, ways for you to cut costs on room and board that’ll make it easier for you to afford college.


  • 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 roommates to split the cost of rent.


  • Colleges and universities offer various types of meal plans to their students and are often required for those who live on campus. Consider trying a less expensive plan (fewer meals every week).
  • Limit eating out. If you do eat out, clip coupons and take advantage of student discounts at local restaurants.
  • Prepare your own meals. Pool resources with roommates or dorm mates to cut the cost of meals. Consider inviting friends over for a potluck or buy food in bulk and share the cost.
  • Ask the financial aid office or your admission counselor if there are any discounts on meal plans if you work in the cafeteria or in other positions on campus.
  • You can usually find a free meal on campus sponsored by a certain club or organization. Many campuses also offer a food pantry for those with food insecurities. Keep an eye out for these opportunities. Plus, it’s a great way to get involved and meet other students!