Does the FAFSA cover housing and books?
In short, yes.
The financial aid that a student receives from submitting the FAFSA is supposed to be money that pays for their full cost of college, also known as the “cost of attendance.”
This cost doesn’t just apply to the tuition and fee expenses of the student. It also applies to the cost of housing, books, transportation, laptops and even food.
Basically, the FAFSA will help students pay for any expense related to their college education. All you have to do is be honest about how you spend the money because if you end up spending that money on non-college related expenses then you won’t get any more financial assistance and will immediately have to pay back the money you’ve already been given.
The financial aid administrator of your college will likely determine what your specific cost of attendance is going to be. Perhaps you have a disability or unusual expenses associated with your college education that have to be taken into consideration. The financial aid administrator is the one that will verify all of this for the federal student aid office when they determine your cost of attendance.
When you apply for financial aid with the FAFSA then the federal student aid office of the U.S. Department of Education will determine your own ability to pay for your college expenses. In other words, the federal government is not likely going to pay every dollar of your college expenses. They are going to want you to pay for some of those expenses as well. But the level of financial assistance that you need is what gets taken into consideration, otherwise known as “expected family contribution.”
The federal student aid office not only looks at your family’s income, but also their total assets. This includes their cars, houses, stocks, bonds or whatever else they have of value. Based on this information, they will compare it to the cost of attendance prepared by the financial aid administrator of the college to figure out how much financial aid will be issued.
What does Books and Housing really mean?
Remember that all of this college expense talk is just a numbers game. Don’t think in terms of “housing and books” or “tuition.” All of these things just add up to your total cost of attendance. Then you are issued a specific amount of money that gets applied towards this total cost.
For example, let’s say your cost of attendance includes tuition, housing, books, and food. Now let’s assume the total cost is $30,000 for all of these expenses. The federal student aid office may provide you with a $20,000 federal loan to help pay for these expenses. That means you still have $10,000 left that you have to pay for out of pocket.
If you don’t have this amount of money in cash then you will likely have to take out a personal loan from a bank, borrow money from family, apply for an unsubsidized federal loan or keep applying for grants and hope you get approved for one.
However, if your family is low-income and your expected family contribution is null then you will likely get approved for a loan that will, at least, cover tuition, books and housing. The expenses that your loan money pays for is up to you. These expenses are all just part of the total cost of attendance.