Does Housing on a FAFSA Affect the Award?

by Sara Mahuron
The cost of your dorm room is calculated into the cost of attendance.

The information you enter on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines how much financial aid you will be awarded. Every answer counts and can impact your bottom line. The FAFSA asks about your housing situation. This information is used to calculate how much money you'll need to cover your cost of living while attending school.

Home Ownership

No need to worry about the value of yours, or your parents', primary residence. The FAFSA doesn't even ask about it. However, real estate other than a primary residence should be listed on your FAFSA and is considered an asset. You may be required to pay up to 20 percent of your assets toward your own education. In some cases, the college or university itself may inquire about your assets and collect information about property you or your parents own, including a primary residence. However, most rely on the FAFSA.

College Housing

The cost of your housing, or room and board, while attending college is used to calculate your cost of attendance. Your COA is calculated by your school; this amount varies by school. If you're attending more than half time, your COA includes tuition and fees, room and board, cost of supplies, cost of books and other allowable expenses. Your housing expense directly affects the amount of your COA.

Housing Question on the FAFSA

The FAFSA asks you about your housing plans. If you plan to live in a dorm or college residence, your housing costs will be calculated using the exact amount the school charges. If you live off-campus, you'll be given a housing allowance. The allowance may be reduced if you indicate you'll live with a relative. For example, the University of California Berkeley calculated the 2013-14 cost of living in a residence hall to be $14,232. Off-campus students are given a budget of $$7,458, and students living with relatives are given a budget of $2,506.

FAFSA Calculation

Your financial need is determined using a basic formula. Your family's expected contribution -- the amount you or your parents are expected to pay out-of-pocket -- is subtracted from the school's cost of attendance. This results in your financial need. In most cases, your financial need is the maximum amount of financial aid you can receive. However, you aren't guaranteed this amount.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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