Moving off campus is, in many cases, much less expensive than living on a university’s campus. However, if a student receives need-based aid, moving off campus would not help students save money.
Need-based financial aid was something that many students received during their time spent at a university. This could be acquired by filling out a form through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see how much one would receive.
Many students at California Lutheran University have expressed their experience that moving off campus has caused them to receive less financial aid from the university. They believe that Cal Lutheran was intentionally making up the difference in money lost from a student who was no longer paying to live on campus.
“I have found financial aid to be helpful, but extremely difficult to work with. For example, several colleagues and I have witnessed the same issue where the Financial Aid office would make last minute changes to financial aid packages and send the notification emails roughly around the time they close,” off-campus resident and student Andrew Nelson said in an email interview. “I was planning on living on campus, but after reviewing the logistics I had come to the conclusion that the school had not given me an ample financial aid package to support me living on campus, to which I informed the residence office.”
Situations such as this could be the leading cause of the current housing crisis at Cal Lutheran regarding the overpopulation of the dorms. Many students may decide to live on campus based on this perceived notion of off-campus financial aid at Cal Lutheran.
While some students may, in fact receive less need-based aid after deciding to live off campus, this is not true for all college students. A student may choose to live at home with their parents where they will, most likely, not pay rent. This will affect the need-based aid they will receive from the university. A student’s financial aid may not be negatively affected if they decide to live in an apartment near campus.
“We see what the estimated family contribution is going to be. We will find out what the true need of the student is. We have three budgets: on campus, off campus and students living at home,” Financial Aid Counselor Jennifer Castaneda said. “There is a small gap between the on campus and off-campus budgets. For example, a student living at home may not be paying rent. It’s also based on travel expenses, food and utilities.”
Despite the opinions of many students, it truly is a case-by-case basis when a university is deciding how much financial aid they can offer to a student moving off campus. Not every student has the same financial situation. A university also has a budget that they must abide by. Some people’s need-based aid will not be affected at all after moving off campus.
According to studentaid.ed.gov, “Typically, the college first applies your grant or loan money toward your tuition, fees, and (if you live on campus) room and board. Any money left over is paid to you for other expenses.”
It is in Cal Lutheran’s best interest to help students receive financial aid so they can attend the university. The need-based aid would be granted to a student if it is warranted. The university would not automatically take financial aid away if a student decides to move off campus. Cal Lutheran would also offer help to on-campus students based on their financial aid that was need-based.
“We want to help students be here. That is the most important thing. We are not going to take financial aid packages away from students, that is not the intention. We also encourage outside scholarships for students because those also help,” Castaneda said.