What Is Room and Board for College?

When contemplating the overall cost of attending college, it’s important to recognize that college expenses are not one lump sum. Instead, they consist of various components that make up the total cost of attendance. Tuition, room, and board are the three primary expenses students encounter when budgeting for college.

You might be wondering, what exactly does this entail?

Understanding this is crucial. Tuition, straightforwardly, refers to the cost of instruction. This can range from around $10,000 annually for in-state public universities to nearly $40,000 annually for private universities.

Room and board, on the other hand, is a bit more nuanced. In this article, we’ll delve into what room and board encompasses, its potential costs, and how you can manage these expenses. We’ll also explore strategies for saving money on both room fees and board fees.

Also read What Is a Tuition Payment Plan? A Comprehensive Guide

What Exactly Is Room and Board?

If you’ve ever perused college costs, you’ve likely encountered a line item labeled “room and board.” But what does this fee actually cover?

In essence, room and board encompass lodging and meals. After all, as a college attendee, you’ll require accommodation and sustenance.

For many students, the room component includes a campus dormitory. These typically come furnished with a bed and a desk, with students often sharing a room with one or more roommates.

Board typically consists of a meal plan. Students can opt for various meal plans providing access to on-campus dining facilities.

What Does Room and Board Cost?

Room and board expenses vary among colleges. On average, room and board costs approximately $11,500 at public institutions and $13,000 at private institutions.

How Will I Pay for Room and Board?

Room and board fees can be covered through various forms of financial aid, including scholarships, need-based grants, and student loans.

Also see What is the Cost of Pursuing a PhD? 2024

Can I Save Money on Room and Board?

Absolutely! This is a significant area where students can save substantial amounts of money. Here are some strategies to help you save money (and potentially even have your room fee fully covered):

  1. Have a Roommate Colleges often charge more for students who opt for single rooms. Sharing a room with one or more roommates can help cut down on expenses.
  2. Opt for a Smaller Meal Plan Colleges typically offer a range of meal plans. Consider your eating habits and select a plan that suits your needs without overpaying. For example, an unlimited meal plan is generally pricier than one offering two meals per day.
  3. Live at Home Commuting to college can be a cost-effective option. While not feasible for everyone and not always offered by colleges, living at home can lead to significant savings on meals and lodging. Some students may choose to live at home for a year or two before transitioning to on-campus housing or finding their own place.
  4. Work as a Resident Advisor (RA) Becoming an RA can be financially beneficial. Some colleges provide RAs with free or discounted housing, potentially offering substantial savings. Additionally, some institutions may offer paid stipends to RAs, although this varies and requires checking with your college for specific details.
  5. Consider Alternative Living Options Certain colleges may offer alternative housing arrangements, such as cooperative housing. In these setups, students live on campus but are responsible for preparing their own meals. These options can offer savings while still providing a sense of community and camaraderie.


Understanding the costs associated with attending college, including room and board, is crucial for students and their families. While these expenses may seem daunting, there are ways to manage and even reduce them. By exploring financial aid options, making strategic choices regarding housing and meal plans, and considering alternative living arrangements, students can effectively navigate the expenses of room and board. Ultimately, being proactive and informed about financial decisions related to room and board can contribute to a more affordable college experience.