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Student Loans

Can You Take Out Student Loans for Living Expenses & Housing?

Student loans can cover more than tuition. They can also cover living expenses, such as housing, groceries, and toiletries. These expenses are part of your school’s cost of attendance (COA), which lenders use to determine how much money you should receive.

Below, we’ll review lenders that cover these expenses and explain when you can use a student loan for living expenses.

Student loans you can use for living expenses

If you’ve exhausted your federal student loan options, consider private student loans to cover the gaps. The lenders below offer loans for housing and other living expenses.

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best overall
5.0
Best for cosigners
4.8
Best for large loans
4.7
Best for member benefits
4.7
Best for personalized support
4.5

In our reviews below, we’ve noted which living expenses each lender specifically lists as covered on its website.

College Ave

Best overall

5.0 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why we picked it

Undergraduates, graduates, and parents can use College Ave loans to cover housing and other living expenses, such as rent, books, transportation, and groceries.

College Ave uses your cost of attendance to determine the total funding you receive. The approved amount is first sent to your school to be applied toward your tuition bill, with excess funds delivered to you for other expenses.

  • Cover up to 100% of on-campus and off-campus expenses
  • Choose your repayment terms
  • 3-minute application with an instant decision
Loan Details
TermDetails
Rates (APR)4.39%16.85%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 8, 10, or 15 years
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 flat, or deferred
EnrollmentNo restrictions
States50 states
Credit scoreMid-600s and above
Annual income$35,000


Sallie Mae

Best for cosigners

4.8 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why we picked it

Sallie Mae is the industry’s most well-known private lender. You can use its loans for tuition, room and board, off-campus housing, transportation, sheets and towels, meals, books, and more. Rather than applying multiple times, you can cover an entire year’s worth of housing and living expenses with one application.

You can cancel any future disbursements without penalty if your education plans change.

  • Cover your full year’s costs with one application
  • Lower your interest rate with in-school repayment
  • Cosigners can be released after just 12 full, on-time payments
Loan Details
TermDetails
Rates (APR)4.50% – 16.70%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms10 – 15 years
Repayment plansInterest-only, $25 flat, or deferred
EnrollmentNo restrictions
States50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico
Credit scoreMid-600s and above
Annual incomeNot disclosed

Earnest

Best for large loans

4.7 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why we picked it

Earnest is an online lender that offers several unique benefits, such as no fees on any of its loans, a nine-month grace period, and the ability to skip one payment per year.

Earnest loans can cover tuition, room and board, books, laptops, study abroad, kitchen supplies, transportation, dependent care, and more.

  • Cover up to 100% of certified costs
  • No origination, application, or late fees
  • 2-minute eligibility check without affecting your credit score
Loan Details
TermDetails
Rates (APR)4.11%16.20%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, 12, or 15 years
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 flat, or deferred
EnrollmentAt least half-time
States49 states and D.C. (Nevada excluded)
Credit score650+
Annual income$35,000

SoFi

Best for member benefits

4.7 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why we picked it

SoFi offers fee-free student loans that cover living expenses, including rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation.

Borrowers gain access to financial planning services and can manage their loans through the SoFi mobile app. SoFi members earn reward points by using the app, which they can use to pay down the balance on their student loans.

  • Financial planning services offered to borrowers
  • Earn points through its mobile app to pay down your loan
  • No origination, application, or late payment fees
Loan Details
TermDetails
Fixed APR4.19%14.83% w/ autopay
Variable APR5.74%15.86% w/ autopay
Loan amounts$5,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 flat, or deferred
EnrollmentAt least half-time
States50 states
Credit scoreNot disclosed
Annual incomeNone

ELFI

Best for personalized support

4.5 /5
LendEDU Rating

Why we picked it

ELFI (Education Loan Finance) student loans offer competitive interest rates and personalized customer service through a dedicated student loan advisor.

This advisor can help you through the application process and offer support as you pay for living and housing expenses.

  • Assigned a student loan advisor
  • Over 2,100 borrowers rate ELFI as “Excellent” on Trustpilot
Loan Details
TermDetails
Rates (APR)4.98%12.79%
Loan amounts$1,000 – 100% of certified costs
Repayment terms5, 7, 10, or 15 years
Repayment plansFull, interest-only, $25 flat, or deferred
EnrollmentAt least half-time
States50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico
Credit score680+
Annual income$35,000

Can you take out a student loan for living expenses?

You can use student loans to pay for anything that helps you get your degree, including living expenses. Common living expenses include:

  • Room and board
  • Off-campus housing
  • Utilities
  • Transportation (e.g., parking pass, gas, and public transit)
  • Food (e.g., groceries and meal plans)
  • Personal supplies (e.g., toiletries and medication)
  • Housing supplies (e.g., sheets, towels, and a microwave)

Tip

For a more in-depth list, check out our guide on what student loans can be used for.


When you take out a student loan, the lender sends the funds to your school. Your school then applies those funds to your outstanding balance. You’ll get any remaining money as a financial aid refund.

Most schools deposit financial aid refunds to students’ bank accounts. Once the transfer goes through, you can use your refund as you see fit. Whether renewing your parking pass or restocking your dorm fridge, your leftover loan proceeds can help cover the cost.

How to use student loans for living expenses off-campus

Loan-eligible living expenses aren’t limited to on-campus charges. You can put your loan proceeds toward off-campus living. 

When you get your financial aid refund, swipe your card or withdraw cash at the ATM to pay for regular bills or one-off purchases, such as:

  • Rent, security deposits, and pet fees
  • Electric, gas, water, and sewer bills
  • Cell phone and internet access
  • New furniture
  • On-campus parking passes
  • Moving costs

This is the major difference between using student loans for off-campus expenses:

When you live in a dorm, what you pay for room and board covers your housing for the entire term. You don’t have separate utility costs; recurring living expenses are limited to costs such as your personal cellphone plan.

However, you’ll pay rent and utilities every month if you have an apartment off campus. Budgeting and staying on top of bill due dates is imperative, especially when you use student loans to help make ends meet.

Federal student loans vs. private student loans for housing expenses

Federal student loan funds don’t process until about four weeks after school starts. To be settled and ready for the first day of class, you may need your first month’s rent and any necessary security deposits before you get your loan money.

Private student loans from banks, credit unions, and online lenders are different from their federal counterparts. Because approval for a private loan is based on creditworthiness instead of financial need, lenders may disburse the money to you instead of your school.

If you can’t wait for your college to process your loan disbursement, private loans could help bridge the gap. Remember that private loans aren’t eligible for federal repayment plans or forgiveness programs. Exhaust your other financial aid and loan options before turning to private student loans.

Living off student loans: Do’s and don’ts

Student loans may seem like free money, but the debt can follow you for years. If you run out of student aid too soon, you could be forced to rely on credit cards or personal loans to pay the bills—which can put you further in the hole.

Since most college and graduate students have little or no time to work and earn money while in school, it’s even more important to be responsible with your spending.

✅ Do

The key to keeping your borrowing costs at a minimum is to know what you should and shouldn’t spend your student loan money on. Below are appropriate items to pay for with student loans:

  • Tuition costs and fees
  • School activities that enhance your resume or deepen your learning
  • Study abroad programs that give you exposure to different cultures and the chance to learn new things while living in a foreign country
  • Books and other supplies you need for classes
  • Essential living expenses, including reasonable rent, food, toiletries, and personal items
  • Tutoring or training you need to excel in your college career
  • Professional testing, certificates, or licensing
  • A computer you need to perform schoolwork

❌ Don’t

You shouldn’t use your loan funds to cover:

  • Spring break trips
  • Nights out at bars
  • A luxury apartment
  • Designer clothing
  • Expensive electronics
  • Restaurants or takeout
  • Treating your friends
  • A car you don’t need to get to class (or a vehicle you couldn’t otherwise afford)

Can I get in trouble for misusing student loan funds?

Your student loans are supposed to be used for educational expenditures and essential living expenses. If your lender finds out you’re misusing funds, your loan could be terminated, and you could be forced to pay back the full amount borrowed.

But lenders aren’t likely to look into how you’re using the funds. Their main concern is your ability to repay the loan. Other consequences for irresponsible spending include:

  1. You could hit your lender’s lifetime student loan limit prematurely.
  2. You might be unable to afford your loan payments when you leave school.

If you max out your student loans before you finish college, you may have difficulty paying tuition. And without student loans as a backup, your living expenses could stretch your budget beyond capacity.

Even if your lender doesn’t call your loans due now, you’ll still need to repay those funds. Overspending can lead to overborrowing, which could affect your finances and credit for years. 


Tip

If you need additional funds for school or living expenses, minimize how much you borrow with these student loan alternatives.


FAQ

Which living expenses are most often paid for with student loans?

Student loans can cover essential living expenses, including accommodation, meals, transportation, utilities, books, and personal and housing supplies. If you have kids, you can also use student loans to pay for child care expenses.

Do you have to tell the lender if you change housing?

You should update your contact information, including your mailing address, with your lender. This ensures you receive essential communications and correspondence related to your loan.

Keeping your address updated is crucial if you’re on an income-driven repayment plan. Some plans need you to recertify your income and family size annually, and having the right contact information ensures you get the necessary reminders and documents for this process.

Can you take out more funds if your living expenses increase?

You can take out additional student loan funds if your living expenses increase during your academic program. However, there are limits to how much you can borrow each year. Approach taking on more debt with caution. It will increase your overall loan burden and future repayment obligations.

How we selected the best student loans for living expenses

LendEDU evaluates student loan lenders to help readers find the best student loans. Our latest analysis reviewed 725 data points from 25 lenders and financial institutions, with 29 data points collected from each. This information is gathered from company websites, online applications, public disclosures, customer reviews, and direct communication with company representatives.

These star ratings help us determine which companies are best for different situations. We don’t believe two companies can be the best for the same purpose, so we only show each best-for designation once.

Recap of student loans for living expenses

Company
Best for…
Rating (0-5)
Best overall
5.0
Best for cosigners
4.8
Best for large loans
4.7
Best for member benefits
4.7
Best for personalized support
4.5