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Using Student Loans for Housing and Living Expenses

March 13, 2019 · 5 minute read

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Using Student Loans for Housing and Living Expenses

Your student loans have been disbursed to your account, hurray! Tuition is covered and so are your books, but your housing situation still needs attention. Where’s that money going to come from? If you are considering using student loans for living expenses, or are looking for other options, check out this list of ways to help cover living expenses while in school.

Can I Use Student Loans to Cover Housing and Living Expenses?

Tuition is not the only thing your student loans can cover. Your loans can cover your college’s cost of attendance , which includes indirect and direct costs like books, transportation, and an allowance for room and board as determined by your institution.

So, you want to cover rent and that Spotify subscription with your student loans? It is important to remember that not everything can be covered by student loans, so here’s a short list directly from the federal

What is Covered by Federal Student Loans

•  Tuition

•  Room and board

•  Institutional fees

•  Books

•  Supplies

•  Equipment

•  Dependent care expenses

•  Transportation

•  Commuting expenses

•  Rental or purchase of a personal computer

•  Loan fees

•  Other documented, authorized costs

Other qualified expenses include housing utilities, housing supplies and furnishings, and meals and groceries. But what about that Spotify subscription? Unfortunately, you can’t cover entertainment costs with student loans. There’s actually a few things that aren’t covered by your federal loans.

What is NOT Covered by Federal Student Loans

•  Travel or vacations (ahem, cannot be used for spring break)

•  New vehicle

•  Down payment on a house

•  Entertainment

•  Frequent dining out or expensive meals

•  New wardrobe

•  Small business expenses

•  Other debt

•  Someone else’s tuition

Okay, so you know what is and isn’t covered, but how can the government really tell if you are using the loans correctly? It’s a bit of a gray area, especially if you deposit any loan refund money into your bank account that’s mixed with other income.

If someone finds out that you’ve been using student loans for non-qualified expenses, it can be reported to the Office of Inspector General as fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or violation of the laws and regulations that govern federal student loans. You are better off following the rules on this one.

Covering Living Expenses While in School

Aside from using student loans, there are several ways to cover living expenses while in school. Here are just a few.

Part-Time Job

Yes, as much as it sucks to skip hanging out with friends on Friday night, picking up a part-time job can help cover the cost of living expenses while in school. More than half of students hold a job while in school , so we know you’re in good company.

It could be a good idea to opt for a part-time job that allows flexible hours that fits into your class schedule. Having a part-time job may actually do wonders for your GPA, too. Students who work 15 to 20 hours per week report higher GPAs than those who do not work at all.

Because you have finite time during the week, you’re forced to study and complete assignments during off work hours, which can improve your time management skills. Boo yah.


Federal Work-Study may also be a good option if you have financial need. Work-Study programs are available to undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, regardless of whether you are a part-time or full-time student.

Jobs are typically on campus, which makes commuting a breeze, and they often work with class schedules. The only drawback here is that you can’t just work as many hours as you want. Allotted work hours are determined by your school’s financial aid office.

Becoming a Resident Assistant

Another way to pay for room and board is to become a Resident Assistant. An RA is usually assigned to a particular floor or wing of a dormitory to oversee dorm residents. Not only do you typically get a better room than others on your dorm floor, you also get free housing.

Your responsibilities might include organizing and leading mandatory floor meetings or monthly social gatherings. You might end up refereeing roommate disagreements, too, but hey, it’s worth it if you’re saving close to $9,000 on average in annual housing costs .


Another great way to cover housing and living expenses (and tuition, quite frankly) is through awarded scholarships. There are many scholarships available from private companies, nonprofit organizations, universities and colleges, and professional and social organizations.

Take an afternoon to research available scholarships that you might be eligible for, paying attention to scholarship requirements. Scholarship awards may have certain conditions, such as requiring that the money only be used for tuition.

On the other hand, scholarship awards may be delivered directly to you to use on whatever you want. Bottom line: consider applying! Scholarship money is often left on the table because eligible students didn’t put in the effort to apply.

Summer Job

As an alternative (or an addition to) a part-time job, you can consider a summer job. You may have more free time to work more hours and rack up cash to help cover your housing and living expenses for the following year. A great way to determine how much you need for each semester is to get an estimate of housing and living expenses.

For example, if you plan on living with a roommate and splitting the cost of an apartment that runs $800 per month, you’ll likely need at least $400 per month for rent. Factor in the likely cost of utilities, internet, groceries, and other monthly living expenses to get a rough estimate.

Divide the total cost by the number of months you plan to work over the summer. You can see how much you’ll need to save each month and if you may need to pick up any extra hours to cover the tuition. It may make for a busy summer, but it just might beat working through the school year.

Selling Unused or Unwanted Items

A quick way to cover housing and living expenses without going into more debt can be to sell unwanted items on buy and sell apps and websites.

Brand name clothing can be sold on apps like Poshmark and unwanted household items, electronics, and more can be sold on apps like OfferUp . It may not cover a whole month’s worth of living expenses, but it may cover a utility bill or a few groceries.

Using Student Loans for Housing and Living Expenses

It’s also not a bad idea to take the time to research housing costs upfront. Think of it as a time to get creative. Whether you have student loans or you’re looking for debt-free solutions to cover housing and living expenses, you’ll probably feel more organized if you come up with a plan—allowing you to catch those much needed Zs in your new home.

Not sure how you’re going to handle those student loans after graduation? Consider refinancing your student loans with SoFi. Refinancing could bring down your interest rate or lower your monthly payment. And applying is quick, easy, and all online.

No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.

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