What Is Room and Board?

Nearly everyone knows that, when you go to college, you have to pay tuition — the money it costs for your classes. Yet most colleges also advertise the costs associated with room and board. Just what is included in these expenses? And why does room and board cost so much anyway?

In a nutshell, room and board includes the costs associated with housing you (i.e., your room) and feeding you (i.e., your board) during your time in school. Most schools advertise their costs for room and board, although your specific expenses might vary a bit from the number that’s publicized in marketing and admissions materials.

You’ll likely only be charged room and board through your school if you live and/or eat on campus. You might choose to live in an off-campus apartment or in your fraternity or sorority, for example, which means you’ll pay rent to someone other than your school. Additionally, if you have a really nice, single room in a residence hall, that arrangement will likely cost more than if you share a room with a roommate. And, if it’s an option for you, you can always live at home during your time in school, cutting down substantially on a major college expense.

Similarly, if you live off campus and don’t want a meal plan, you won’t be charged for board. Or, if you do live on campus, you can pick which meal plan works best for you — and the cost of that plan might be smaller than what you were expecting. Keep in mind, however, that many schools mandate that you purchase a meal plan if you live in the residence halls. This might seem silly and frustrating, but you’ll have to get a plan if that’s one of the conditions of living on campus.

Understanding the specific costs of room and board for your institution can help you decide where to live (and eat!) depending on your budget. There are lots of options, regardless of your situation, so make sure you understand all the fact and figures before making any final room and board decisions.