What is room and board?

You’ve been accepted to your dream college! You’re all set and ready to go. But then you get the bill. And it’s not just tuition; there are other fees like room and board that will cost you a lot of money before you even start classes. All that money adds up quickly, but don’t worry – I’m going to break down what room and board means and the costs, so you know how it will affect your wallet.

Room and Board Meaning

Room and Board Meaning

Many college students are not aware of the room and board definition. It is the cost of housing and food while at a college. In the most basic sense, room and board is a term used to describe the room you’re living in, the food you eat, and how much it costs.

There are two main types – housing only, which means just your place to live, or with a meal plan, which gives you both a room and food to eat.

The room you live in while in college is usually a dorm with other people your age.

The “board” part of this equation means food – and there’s more than just breakfast cereal! Depending on where you go to school, the meals that are part of your meal plan can get fancy!

How much will you pay?

How much does room and board cost?

If you’re paying for a school yourself without financial aid or scholarships, then you need to be very aware of these costs. 

The average cost for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • $13,120 at private colleges
  • $11,620 at public colleges

For meal plans, the cost can vary from school to school. For example, some schools offer three meals a day for a more affordable price than off-campus meals, while others charge a premium. In addition, some offer very flexible options at various prices, whereas some schools are more limited in their choices. 

Click HERE to see the average cost by state.

What options are available?

When looking at college, it is essential to know what the various types of arrangements mean for your budget.

Housing only: 

This option means you only pay for the cost of housing. No meals or food expenses are included.

Housing with a meal plan: 

This includes a place to live and food. How much food varies depending on which plans you choose. They can range from a few meals a week to three meals a day plus snacks.

Meal plan: 

Some schools will allow you to purchase just the meal plan alone. This can be a convenience for students who live off-campus, yet close enough to want on-campus dining. 

Your school’s website should have information about how much room and board would be if you enrolled in that particular program, but it shouldn’t hurt to call the admissions or housing office too (or email them)!

How do room and board arrangements vary?

College Housing Options

Types of housing vary significantly while you are in college. You might get a choice between a more traditional dorm room with a roommate or a private room for yourself. Many students, especially freshmen, look forward to having a roommate and built-in friend when they arrive at college. Others prefer having their own space to move around and focus on their homework.

Upper-classmen often have the option of living in an apartment-style building with roommates. Within these apartments, there are often double rooms; however, many have individual rooms. Apartments are nice because they usually have a private kitchen, living room, and bathroom, meaning you don’t have to share these amenities with an entire floor of other students.

Meal plans vary greatly depending on which school you attend.

Learn more about the options at your school

College Dorm Room costs

Many students assume you have to sign-up for the meal plan included in your financial aid award letter, but you can often opt out or select different options. Make sure you fully evaluate what’s available and choose what’s right for you.

To learn more about what is available at your college, explore their housing website. If you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the housing staff or director by email or phone. They typically have staff available and assigned to help students.

One year when I was a college student, I needed a housing change due to my work schedule. I had to email and meet with the housing director, then file a petition to change my housing to a different location.

Also, remember, you may find it cheaper to live off-campus. While some schools require freshman and sophomores to live on-campus, many will allow you to find alternate living arrangements as you progress in your education. This can often be a huge money saver, as door rooms are often pricier than living with roommates in off-campus housing.

There are a lot of factors to consider. Look at all of the options, and evaluate and weigh what is best for you.