10 Ways For Poor College Students to Afford Rent

Housing is a major expense, but there are a few ways that college students can cut costs and avoid additional debt. Learn the top ways to pay rent in college.

When faced with tuition costs and textbooks, the ability to afford rent can seem like a pipe dream. However, college students have more options than they may realize. 

Whether you’re thinking of living in on-campus housing or renting an off-campus apartment, you’ll face many of the same challenges. And it may not be enough to rely on a personal savings account or help from your parents. 

Let’s review the ten best strategies for poor college students to afford housing costs. 

1. Live at Home or With Family

For many college students, this may seem like the worst option. As a commuter student, you’ll need to get up extra early for your morning classes. Plus, this housing option can be hard on your social life. 

However, it’s impossible to deny the financial benefits of living with your parents or other family members. Any contribution to household expenses will likely be much less than the costs of having your own place. 

A 2019 report from Sallie Mae revealed that 42 percent of college students live with their parents. That’s a sum of the six percent who pay rent while staying with their parents and the 35 percent who live at home rent-free.

Rates of living at home are higher among students attending a community college. For students attending a four-year public college, there’s still 31 percent of students living with parents. 

Interestingly, rates of living at home are higher among students who did not take out student loans. That indicates that students are using their living arrangements as a way to pay for college while avoiding the long-term burden of student debt.

2. Get Roommates to Split Rent

For students living on-campus or in off-campus apartments, having more roommates usually means you’ll pay less rent. 

For example, the 2020 median rent for a one-bedroom is $961 per month. For a two-bedroom, the median rent is $1,192, which would be just $596 if splitting it with a roommate. That’s a 38 percent savings!

Savvy college students can further reduce their living expenses with additional roommates. Couples or close friends can live with two people per bedroom, further reducing the rent that each individual pays.  Plus, some apartments have extra rooms that could be used as bedrooms. 

3. Stick to a Monthly Budget

When in college, it’s easy for monthly expenses to get away from you, and you could be left without enough money to pay your rent at the end of the month. 

By creating a workable monthly budget, you’ll know how much money you have available for each of your expenditures. Be sure to include your fixed costs like your rent, phone bill and internet bill. Establish monthly estimates for bills that fluctuate such as utilities and groceries. 

A budget item that’s unique to college students is semester-related costs such as tuition, textbooks and lab fees. These costs can mean you’ll have major bills to pay at the start of the semester. 

Your financial aid award or work-study income can help offset some of these costs. However, your budget can help you be prepared for the months when you’ll have these major expenses. 

4. Offset Housing Costs with Work Exchange

A great way you can lower your housing costs is through work exchange. 

For students who live on campus, becoming a Resident Advisor in the dorms commonly includes full room and board. Requirements for the position usually include living in the dorm for at least one year. So if you pay on-campus housing costs as a Freshman, you could get hired as an RA and have free housing for the remaining three years of college. 

You can also use work-exchange to reduce rent when living off campus. However, opportunities are less formalized, and you may have to use some negotiation skills. Simply figure out what your landlords need help with and what skills you can offer. 

For example, you can make an arrangement with your landlord to lower your rent if you mow the lawn, shovel snow or perform small maintenance tasks. If you live in a larger apartment, the property management company may need help with their website and social media presence. 

5. Use Student Loans to Pay Rent

Whether you’re living on campus or off campus, student loans can be used to pay for housing costs. 

When living on campus, the fund allocation between tuition and housing happens behind the scenes. As long as your costs are covered through loans, scholarships or other payment methods, you’ll be good to go. 

For off-campus housing, you’ll have to be more hands-on with using loans to pay your rent. Typically, student loan disbursements are issued directly to your college. After your tuition and other school-related fees have been paid, you’ll receive the balance of your loan money as a direct deposit.

This student loan disbursement usually happens in one lump sum after the start of the academic year. This means that if you don’t receive your student loan money until mid-September, you’ll need to be prepared to pay out of pocket for your security deposit and first month’s rent.

Then, after your student loan funds are transferred to your bank account, you’ll have a lot of money on hand. Just remember that this cash will need to last for several months of rent payments. 

While most college students are trying to avoid the long-term financial burden of student debt, keep in mind that paying for housing with student loans is not the worst possible option. 

When tight on cash, some students may opt to pay their rent using a credit card. Typically, interest rates on credit cards are much higher than student loans. The average student loan interest rate is 5.8 percent, but the average interest rate on student credit cards is 19.8 percent. 

6. You May Qualify for Government Assistance

There are a few different ways you can get government assistance for your college housing costs. 

For veterans and service members, the GI Bill covers tuition and fees, and it includes a housing allowance and textbook stipend. 

Section 8 housing could be an option for college students, however, there are limitations. If you’re under age 24, you may need to reference your parents’ income information on your Section 8 application. The traditional income requirements apply to college students who are over age 24.  

College students can also get help paying utility bills from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 

Section 42 is another method to reduce your housing costs. Rather than paying the market rates for your housing, the program limits your total rent and utility costs to 30 percent of your monthly income. There are restrictions on eligibility. For example, the program doesn’t usually apply to full-time college students who live alone or groups of students living together.

7. Leverage Academic Success for More Funding

How well you perform in your classes can determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, and fellowships. With GPA requirements being a common qualifier, the higher your grades are, the more financial support you’ll be eligible for.

Not only can you use scholarships and financial aid to avoid additional student loans, but they’re also a common way to help students pay for living expenses.

Savvy college students are making small investments in their academics and seeing dramatic improvements in their grades. For example, a OneClass subscription can cost less than $10 per month with an annual subscription. With millions of college students using the platform, more than 90 percent have improved by at least one letter grade. 

This dramatic GPA improvement can help you to qualify for thousands of new scholarship opportunities, which can help you pay your rent. 

Improving your grades can also have financial benefits in the future. It can help you score internships or land job interviews after you graduate. Good grades could also help you to get noticed by your professors, who can help introduce you to helpful contacts in your field.

8. Get an Easy Side Gig to Earn Rent Money

College life is busy. That’s why the best side gigs are ones that don’t require massive time commitments. 

Side gigs such as driving for Uber will require you to put in the hours in order to earn enough money for rent. However, there are better student gigs that will pay for the things you’re already doing. 

In our guide to hacking college debt, we rounded up some of the best gigs for making money with minimal time investment. For example, some apps will pay you for tracking your steps, making it an easy way to monetize your fitness habit. You can also get paid to play video games with apps like Twitch. 

You can also get paid to go to class. As a OneClass Official Notetaker, students earn an average of $470 per course for something they’re already doing — taking class notes. Class notes can be either typed or neatly written, and the majority of notetakers find that their own grades improve after becoming a paid notetaker. 

9. Become a House Sitter or Pet Sitter

House sitting or pet sitting is a great option for free to low-cost housing. However, you will need to remain somewhat nomadic as you schedule a series of gigs throughout the semester.

Your academic circles can lead you to house sitting opportunities. Professors could take sabbaticals and grad students may take research fellowships. 

Additional house sitting options could come from snowbirds or people who have multiple homes. For example, when retired people are spending their winters in Florida or Arizona, their vacant property could become your affordable housing.

10. Find Low-Cost Housing During Breaks and Summers

Students may also be able to find low-cost housing when many students are not taking classes. 

For example, when students go home for the summer, they may be subletting their apartments, and rates are commonly much lower. Plus, college campuses offer gap housing to students who want to live in the dorms during breaks or after classes end. 

These options won’t be a permanent housing assignment, but you could score a living space for much less than a typical apartment rental. 

Discover what study resources have been shared for your classes on OneClass.

Image attribution: baranq – stock.adobe.com

University of Hartford Online Tutoring Services

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Course CodeCourse Name
CH 110College Chemistry
CH 111PCollege Chemistry
CH 114Principles of Chemistry I
CH 136Principles of Chemistry II
CH 230 Organic Chemistry I
CH 231Organic Chemistry II
M 140 Precalculus with Trigonometry
M 144Calculus I
M 145Calculus II

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHEM 116Chemistry I
CHEM 118 Chemistry II
CHEM 119 N/Introductory Chemistry Lab
CHEM 202 Accelerated Chemistry
CHEM 203N/Principles of Chemistry I
CHEM 204 Principles of Chemistry II
CHEM 211 Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 212Organic Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 213 Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 216Organic Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 223 Principles of Organic Chem I
CHEM 224 Principles of Organic Chem II
MATH 112Precalculus
MATH 213R/Applied Calculus I
MATH 221R/Calculus I

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHEM 111 General Chemistry I
CHEM L111 General Chemistry I Lab
CHEM 112 General Chemistry II
CHEM L112General Chemistry II Lab
MATH 130Finite Math with Recitation
MATH 134Calculus for Management & Social Sciences

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHM 1020Chemistry in Society
CHM 1032General, Organic& Biochemistry
CHM 1032LGen, Organic, Biochemistry Lab
CHM 1045General Chemistry I
CHM 1045CGeneral Chem w/Lab I
CHM 1045LGeneral Chemistry I Lab
CHM 1046General Chemistry II
CHM 1046CGeneral Chem w/Lab II
CHM 1046LGeneral Chemistry II Lab
CHM 2210Organic Chemistry I
CHM 2210COrganic Chemistry w/Lab I
CHM 2210LOrganic Chemistry I Laboratory
CHM 2211Organic Chemistry II
CHM 2211COrganic Chem w/Lab II
CHM 2211LOrganic Chemistry II Laborator
MAC 1105College Algebra
MAC 1147Precalculus
MAC 2311Calculus I
MAC 2312Calculus II

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CHEM1AGeneral Chemistry
CHEM 1BGeneral Chemistry
CHEM 1CGeneral Chemistry
CHEM 1MGeneral Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 1NGeneral Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 8AOrganic Chemistry
CHEM 8BOrganic Chemistry
CHEM 8LOrganic Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 8MOrganic Chemistry Laboratory
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MATH 20AHonors Calculus
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MATH 21Linear Algebra
MATH 22Introduction to Calculus of Several Variables
MATH 23AVector Calculus
MATH 23BVector Calculus
MATH 24Ordinary Differential Equations

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHEM 103Introductory Chemistry
CHEM 105NIntroductory Chemistry
CHEM 106NIntroductory Chemistry Laboratory
CHEM 107NIntroductory Organic and Biochemistry
CHEM 108NIntroductory Organic and Biochemistry Laboratory
CHEM 121NFoundations of Chemistry I Lecture
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CHEM 123N.Foundations of Chemistry II Lecture
CHEM 124NFoundations of Chemistry II Laboratory
CHEM 125Foundations of Chemistry II Lab with Introduction to Chemical Research
CHEM 211Organic Chemistry I Lecture
CHEM 212Organic Chemistry I Laboratory
CHEM 213Organic Chemistry II Lecture
CHEM 214Organic Chemistry II Laboratory
CHEM 216Advanced Organic Chemistry Laborator
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Course CodeCourse Name
CHEM 100Introduction to Chemistry
CHEM 101Physical Science
CHEM 121General Chemistry I
CHEM 122General Chemistry II
CHEM 221Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 222Organic Chemistry II
MATH 101Finite Mathematics
MATH 135College Algebra: A Modeling Approach
MATH 140College Algebra and Trigonometry
MATH 150Data and Probability Connections
MATH 160Introduction to Applied Calculus
MATH 198Calculus I for Biology and Medicine

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHM 1025Introductory Chemistry
CHM 2032General Chemistry for the Health Sciences
CHM 2032LGeneral Chemistry for the Health Sciences Lab
CHM 2045General Chemistry 1
CHM 2045LGeneral Chemistry 1 Lab
CHM 2046General Chemistry 2
CHM 2046LGeneral Chemistry 2 Lab
CHM 2051CHonors General Chemistry 2
CHM 2210Organic Chemistry 1
CHM 2211Organic Chemistry 2
CHM 2211LOrganic Chemistry Lab
MAC 1105College Algebra
MAC 1114Trigonometry
MAC 1140Precalculus Algebra
MAC 1147Precalculus Algebra and Trigonometry

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Course CodeCourse Name
CHEM 101College Chemistry I
CHEM 102College Chemistry II
CHEM 105Forensic Chemistry of C.S.I
CHEM 111General Chemistry I
CHEM 112General Chemistry II
CHEM 113Concepts in Chemistry I
CHEM 114Concepts in Chemistry II
CHEM 214Intermediate Inorganic Chemistry
CHEM 231Organic Chemistry I
CHEM 232Organic Chemistry II
CHEM 255Biochemistry and Nutrition
MATH 125Calculus I for Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics
MATH 126Calculus II for Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics
MATH 171Introduction to Linear Algebra