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Room and Board: What You Need to Know Before You Start Living on Your Own

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Room and board is the amount of money you pay to live in your dorm or apartment. You pay room and board to the university or student housing, not to the landlord.

Room and board
University Student

Am I required to pay room and board?

Every university has different requirements for how much room and board will cost you. Some universities require you to live on campus; others don’t require that you live on campus at all.

What is included in room and board?

Room and Board includes your rent, utilities, Internet access, laundry services, among other things. Can I move off-campus while still paying room and board?Some schools allow you to sign up for an “Off Campus” living contract if they offer one

What is room and board?

Room and board (often referred to as “residence hall”) is the actual cost of the room that you’re living in. As mentioned above, most universities require you to live on campus. Other universities will let you sign a contract with a student housing provider (or in some cases, dorm) for a limited time or if you agree to pay a certain amount of money over a specified period of time. That amount is called room and board. Every university has different requirements for how much room and board will cost you. Some universities require you to live on campus; others don’t require that you live on campus at all.Rules for room and board vary from one university to another, and from one state to another.

Understanding your fees

Room and board fees vary from school to school, and they aren’t all the same. That said, it is helpful to keep the following information in mind as you are making your decision:Room and board fees are often listed as a percentage of your total tuition cost, but this is not always the case.Some colleges charge additional fees for things like laundry, internet access, extra furniture, or extra cleaning.Some colleges are small enough that they don’t charge a room and board fee, but there may still be additional fees on top of room and board.How much do I need to pay?You’ll want to think about how long you plan to be at the school you’re considering.

Understanding what you’ll be paying for

Traditionally, this includes the cost of housing (dorm rooms or private apartments), utilities, the cost of food and entertainment. It will likely also include extra costs, like access to the school bookstore, cable television and food service.Room and Board can add up fast. The cost of living at the university may not be cheap, but the price tag for living on campus at a private apartment or house can be even more staggering. Some students, like Ali Habib, have said that room and board can easily cost $1,500 to $2,500 per month.By contrast, someone living off campus in a house or a duplex would typically pay $800 per month in rent. A relatively new, innovative type of off-campus living contract, with Airbnb, offers college students an affordable alternative.


Rent is the price you pay for your room and board. Your rent can be paid weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. This will vary by your college or university. How much money do I pay each month?Depending on your housing contract and tuition fees, you may pay anywhere from $300 to $1,000 a month, monthly. Can I live on campus?Some colleges allow you to live on campus, while other schools only allow first-year students to live on campus. I can live off campus, but I can’t live in a house.Some colleges require students to live on campus. This is the most expensive option, but also the most luxurious. You are not allowed to rent out your room or house; you are only allowed to have guests in your room or house for the weekend.

Internet access

Dorm shared laundryLaundry hook-upWeekly housekeepingCell phone/Mountain Bell rental (only available in certain areas)Assigned housing deskState-of-the-art video monitoring systemLandlord-provided meals (at a discount for longer-term residents)In addition to room and board, you will also have to pay a weekly charge, ranging from $20 to $100 per person, that will help pay for the space itself. Housing and Residential Life (HRL) are the organizations that handle housing on the UC Berkeley campus.These are the types of rooms that are available. You can also see a list of dorms by housing type.Room and Board CostsOn a yearly basis, you will also need to know about the estimated cost of room and board, room + board, and rent for the campus.


GasElectricityWaterVideo-Conference access for phone, tablets and computers (minimum of 4-5 video phones)Kitchen (toiletries)BreakfastLaundryUtility serviceLocks (some require you to have a deadbolt)Internet accessCell phoneArmed and unarmed guards around propertySecurity system and monitoring Who pays for utilities?You pay the full cost of your utilities. The university/campus may provide some utilities. And some companies do provide utilities. How much will utilities cost? On average, around $150 per month, but will depend on where you are living.What is the cost of utilities on campus?The cost of utilities on campus varies according to your housing contract.

Room and board utilities

The cost of living off-campus

The number of parking permitsThe type of lawn careThe electric and gas billsDining hall expensesUtilities, including cable, phone and other types of phone servicesDorm expensesSubscription services such as Netflix, Hulu, and AmazonT-shirts and sweatshirtsShampoo, conditioner, hair products, and shaving productsBooks and suppliesBoxed foods, such as ramen, Mac and Cheese, boxed dinnersLaundry equipment, including dry-cleaning and ironing services.


Living on your own is both a rite of passage and an exciting new chapter in your life. As you continue living independently, you will learn a lot about yourself and how to manage your money. There is no better way to learn how to manage your money than by experience. Living on your own gives you the opportunity to figure out how much you can pay for rent or utilities, how much you need to budget for food, and how you will do all of that without the support of your parents. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, but it’s important to remember that you’re only one decision away from making things easier.RESOURCES:University Guide(The map above is for students with an internship at the end of their first year.

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