Living assistance for students – At a quick glance, the average student debt faced by the American college student makes one thing clear: the cost of education isn’t cheap.
With tuition rates soaring, it’s no wonder that students across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to pay for college.
What’s worse, however, is that many students are expected to see their off-campus housing.
There’s nothing worse than being strapped for cash and having nowhere to go.
That’s why this guide aims to show you what living assistance for students is available for you. Though the thought of not having a home in your college town can seem daunting at first—don’t worry.
With multiple forms of housing assistance available, you never have to worry about being put out on the streets.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about off-campus housing assistance and what you can do to receive it.
What is Off-Campus Housing?
Let’s start with the most important question. What is off-campus housing?
If you’ve lived in a dorm for most of your college career, you may not be familiar with how off-campus housing works.
Generally speaking, off-campus housing refers to any lodgings that aren’t sponsored by the university.
Think about your university’s dorms. These are all considered on-campus housing. Anything outside of this—such as apartments, houses, or even shelters—are considered off-campus housing.
Often, students elect off-campus housing for greater privacy, even though it can include greater upfront costs.
Can I Use Financial Aid to Pay for Off-Campus Housing?
One of the most common questions incoming students have is whether or not they can use their student loans to pay for off-campus housing.
It’s clear for most students that their FASFA and other government-issued grants and scholarships cover the cost of on-campus housing.
As mentioned, this means that these grants and forms of financial aid cover the cost of living in dorms.
But can they be used to pay for off-campus housing as well?
Yes. You don’t have to worry about whether or not these options can be used to cover your cost of living.
As financial aid is designed to make sure you can comfortably and safely make it through your college experience, they are versatile in their applications.
For this reason, you can certainly use the funds from your FASFA or other financial aid to cover the cost of renting a house or an apartment.
This means that there’s some fluidity in the way you use your financial aid—and that’s exactly the way it was designed.
If you have any questions about what your particular forms of financial aid can be used for, it’s worth contacting a representative or looking back at any paper or electronic documents that you may have signed.
You can also talk to your school counselors and see what options are available for you.
Does a 529 Plan Cover Off-Campus Housing?
You may be wondering if a 529 plan will cover the cost of your housing. The answer is “Yes, but it depends.”
More specifically, you can use a 529 plan to pay for your off-campus housing if you don’t withdraw more than the amount listed for rent in your financial aid reward letter.
This means that anything over may not qualify as a proper educational expense (and therefore may not be valid for off-campus housing application).
There’s also another stipulation: you must be enrolled in school at least part-time. While this may not be a problem for most students, it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on using a 529 plan to help cover the cost of your off-campus housing.
As part of this, you will want to factor in whether your summer vacation disqualifies you from being in college at least part-time.
If you’re not sure, it’s worth speaking with a professional to find out what plans are best for you and your current situation.
Do Student Loans Cover Off-Campus Housing?
I get it—no one likes student loans.
Sometimes, however, they’re simply unavoidable. Unless your parents share the last name “Gates,” it’s likely that you’ll have to draw at least a little in student loans.
As much as that might set off your inner panic button, it’s worth noting that these loans have a variety of uses and can actually come in handy as you maneuver through college.
This includes, of course, your off-campus housing. Because housing is a key component of your education experience, you can absolutely use student loans to cover the cost of your rent.
Of course, if you are using them to cover your full living expenses, there’s a chance that you will graduate from college with a significant amount of debt.
After all, rent in most college towns isn’t cheap, and this is only truer if you live in a big city.
Keeping this in mind, however, you may not have another option when it comes to affordable housing.
If you must, there’s no shame in taking out student loans to help cover the cost of your off-campus housing. Remember that you don’t have to take out full loans.
If you are working a job, you can mitigate some of your future debt by paying part of your rent upfront.
This will save you from having to take out the maximum loan amount and keep you from graduating with too much debt (assuming you have no other loans).
The important point here is that you can absolutely use your student loans to cover the cost of your off-campus housing.
This means that you should never feel immediate pressure to find an affordable place to live.
Even if you have to push costs off to the future, student loans provide you with a secure way to finish up your college education without having to worry about where you are going to live.
What is Section 8 Housing?
If student loans make you uncomfortable, it may be time to consider Section 8 housing.
If you’ve never heard of this concept before, you may not be aware of the benefits it could provide you during your college experience.
But first, what is Section 8 housing?
Simply put, Section 8 housing refers to a government program that will allow qualified individuals to pay no more than 30% of their rent and utilities.
Any cost that goes above this figure will be shouldered by the government.
Section 8 housing seeks to provide low-income individuals with affordable and quality housing.
And while it generally isn’t a tool used by college students, there’s nothing stopping you from applying if you are in desperate need of housing assistance.
Am I Eligible for Section 8 Housing?
Still, not everyone is eligible for Section 8 housing. Because the program provides considerable assistance to qualified applicants, the selection process is actually quite rigorous.
Knowing this, let’s take a look and see who qualifies for Section 8 housing and who doesn’t.
In order to qualify for Section 8 housing, you must:
Have lived separately from your parents for at least a year—Otherwise, you will be asked to include your parents’ income information on your application (if you are under 24).
Obviously, this may put you over the range to be accepted into the program.
If you don’t meet either of these requirements, it’s time to seek a different path to finding off-campus housing assistance.
Be a US Military veteran—If you are a college freshman, you can cross this one off your list, as well.
If you have served and are going back to school, however, you can certainly use Section 8 housing to help you find an affordable place.
Be married—Married individuals also have a preference when it comes to Section 8 housing.
Be disabled—Those with disabilities are eligible for Section 8 housing. In order to receive these benefits, however, you must be able to prove your disability with documentation.
Be the parent of a minor child—In the chance that you are the parent of a minor child (a child below the age of eighteen), you will also be eligible for Section 8 housing.
If you don’t meet any of these criteria, you won’t be eligible for Section 8 housing.
In these cases, it’s important to turn to other sources of funding—primarily loans—to ensure that you have a place to stay in when the semester starts.
You can apply for Section 8 housing vouchers at public housing agencies (PHAs).
When you fill out the application, you will be required to document your proof of income and list your employment.
Make sure that you have all the necessary documentation in place, or your application may not be approved—or at least approved on time.
If worse comes to worst, many university towns offer youth shelters for homeless youth.
While no one wishes to spend their college days in a shelter, sometimes it’s possible to lose all control of a situation.
At best, these shelters provide a temporary place to stay until other arrangements can be worked out.
In general, however, these shelters can be pretty packed, meaning you might not be able to secure a spot every night.
Still, youth shelters are a good place to stay while you work on securing other housing arrangements.
For instance, if you are having trouble processing your financial aid or haven’t received your refund and are having trouble paying your rent, these shelters give you a place to stay in the meantime.
In general, however, you shouldn’t expect to stay in one of these shelters. Still, for many students, it’s nice to know that these shelters exist for a bit of extra protection.
What Can You Do?
Not sure where to turn to get your off-campus housing funds sorted out? Don’t worry!
There are many online websites such as the College Board that offer professional assistance and forums you can turn to for guidance.
If you don’t wish to go this route, you may find it helpful to talk to your current high school guidance counselor or a financial aid representative at your university.
Often, your university may have its own unique guidelines or policies that can’t be found in general posts online.
By talking to representatives at your university, you may find that you are eligible for certain programs or deals offered by your university for students in your situation.
More often than not, universities have plans in place to take care of their economically-disadvantaged students.
It’s worth meeting with one of your counselors or financial aid representatives to see what loans or discounts you are eligible for.
It is good to know how quickly you may be expected to pay them back.
In the best-case scenario, you may even be eligible for grants that can be given to you free of charge.
Whatever the case, it never hurts to meet with someone who can give you the assistance you need.
Don’t be afraid to reveal your financial situation. Your college experience is meant to be prosperous and joyful—and it’s your responsibility to make sure that is.
The Bottom Line
College is hard—but finding an affordable place to live doesn’t have to be.
By following this guide, you can find out everything you need to know about off-campus housing assistance. For many students, finding a cheap place to live off-campus can be daunting.
Luckily, you can use your financial aid and student loans to help shoulder the cost of your housing.
Contrary to what some think, these forms of student aid are not just available to those who live on campus.
Knowing this, it’s time to evaluate your situation. See what you need to do to ensure your off-campus housing for the upcoming semester.
It’s always better to plan ahead to make sure that you have the funds necessary to ensure quality housing for your next academic year.
So don’t wait! See what you can do today!