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Student Loans

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

Short answer: Yes, you can.

You can use student loans—federal and private—for more than just your tuition. They can also cover living expenses like housing, groceries, toiletries, and more. 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 explain when you can use a student loan for living expenses, which lenders offer these loans, how the process works, and more.

On this page:

When you can use student loans for living expenses

When you take out a student loan, the lender sends the funds to your school, which applies the amount to tuition, fees, and room and board if you live on campus.

The school sends any remaining funds to you directly in a lump sum to use as needed.

Here is a list of living expenses that can be covered by student loans, according to the lenders in the next section:

  • 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)

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

Student loans you can use for living expenses

Consider your federal student loan options first. If you’ve done that, consider the private lenders below. They offer student loans to cover living expenses. Be sure to only borrow what you need to limit the amount you must repay after graduation.

College Ave

  • Fixed rates: 4.44% – 15.32%
  • Variable rates: 4.99% – 15.32%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance

College Ave is our top-rated private student loan lender. The company offers loans for undergraduates, graduates, career training, and parents with children attending college.

According to the lender, money from your loan can be used for tuition, room and board, housing, textbooks, supplies, transportation, and more.

Benefits of College Ave include low rates, the ability to choose your loan terms, and no fees to apply.

Sallie Mae

  • Fixed rates: 4.50% – 14.83%
  • Variable rates: 5.87% – 16.20%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance

Sallie Mae is the industry’s best-known private student loan lender, offering student loans for undergraduates, graduates, career training, parents, and more.

According to the lender, its loans can be used for tuition, room and board, off-campus housing, transportation, sheets and towels, and more.

Benefits of Sallie Mae include its multiyear advantage (high approval odds for current undergraduate borrowers with a cosigner) and the quickest opportunity for cosigner release.


  • Fixed rates: 4.45%14.90%
  • Variable rates: 5.15%16.20%
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 – 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance

Earnest is an online lender offering student loans for undergraduates and graduates.

According to the lender, its loans can be used for tuition, room and board, linens, kitchen supplies, transportation, dependent care, and more.

Benefits of Earnest include no fees, a quick two-minute eligibility check, and the ability to skip one payment per year.

How to use student loans for off-campus housing

It’s easy to use student loan money for housing and other living expenses. Just be sure to spend the money on necessary expenses.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Deposit student loan refund check: Once you get the student loan refund check from your school, you can deposit the money into your bank account just like any other check.
  2. Pay rent or other housing expenses: Write a check or make payments however you typically would from your bank account for rent.
  3. Monitor account balance: Remember you won’t get any more student loan funds until the next semester or year, so you should monitor your account balance to ensure you’ll have enough for the rent for the whole semester.
  4. Avoid unnecessary spending: Some students use student loan money for unnecessary expenses (such as spring break). Be sure to reserve your student loan money for necessary expenses. Remember: You will have to repay the money with interest.

Responsible money management can stretch your student loan funds further so you can borrow smaller amounts or use some of what you borrowed to make optional loan interest payments while in school.

Federal student loans vs. private student loans for housing expenses

Federal student loan funds don’t process until about four weeks after school starts. So to be settled and ready for the first day of class, you may need the 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 handled differently than their federal counterparts. Because approval for a private loan is based upon creditworthiness instead of financial need, the money is often disbursed to you to pay expenses.

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 could put you even further in debt.

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 to ensure your loan money doesn’t run out and force you into a challenging financial situation.

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

You shouldn’t use your loan funds to cover:

  • Spring break trips
  • Nights out at bars
  • An expensive apartment
  • Designer clothing
  • Expensive electronics
  • Restaurants or takeout
  • Treating your friends
  • A car you don’t need to get to class (or a vehicle that’s too expensive)

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 student loan lender finds out you’re misusing funds, such as by paying for spring break trips or bar-hopping, it’s possible your loan could be terminated and you could be forced to pay back the full amount borrowed.

However, it’s unlikely lenders will look into what you’re using the funds for or take action if they find out you’re having fun with your student aid money. Their main concern is your ability to repay the loan.

You want to borrow the minimum amount of money you need to attend school and have a reasonable standard of living, but avoid taking out too many student loans.

Student loans for living expenses are available, but using them wisely is important, so you don’t run out of money and need to take on other consumer debt during the academic year.


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 a child, you may also use student loans to cover 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.

If you’re on an income-driven repayment plan, keeping your address updated is crucial. 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.