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Can I Use Student Loans for Living Expenses?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Students have more financial concerns than just paying for books and tuition. In most university and college systems, it is difficult if not impossible to hold down a full time job that pays for living expenses such as rent, transportation, and groceries. In many cases, people can use student loans for living expenses, unless the loan contracts stipulates otherwise.

Using student loans for living expenses is a very common way to ensure financial survival while focusing on education rather than a career. In many regions, the maximum amount of state-allowed financial aid includes estimated costs of living in the total. This means that students can often borrow student loans for living expenses as well as for costs like tuition.

Generally, when a student borrows student loans for living expenses in addition to those for school tuition, the money is distributed to the school first. After the school deducts tuition and other costs, it will issue a refund check to the student for the amount remaining of the loan. This money can then usually be used as the student decides; paying rent, buying gas, and event entertainment money can all come from student loan refunds.

Although a person may sometimes borrow up to the cost of estimated living expenses, it is important to remember that these are loans that must be repaid. Student loan debt is notoriously difficult to get rid of; in the United States, it is nearly the only type of debt not dismissed in bankruptcy. Experts recommend setting a very clear and concise budget regarding student loans for living expenses. After a first year or semester is completed and a student knows firsthand the average cost of living while at school, some recommend trying to reduce the amount of loans taken out in order to keep debt from escalating. Part-time jobs, work-study, and teaching assistant jobs can usually be managed by students in order to help cover living expenses instead of relying solely on loans.

Some private loans, grants, and scholarships are not meant to be used for living expenses. Instead, these sources of financial aid are meant to be directed toward a particular expense, such as tuition, books, or a semester abroad program. Most of the time, these loans and other aids will say specifically what the money is meant for; many simply cut the check directly to the school or program rather than giving it to the student directly. It is important to check if there are stipulations about using private student loans for living expenses; some lenders may even threaten to rescind the loan if the money is not used as specified.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Feb 11, 2014

@Ruggercat68, my student loan story is similar to yours, but I didn't have many options at the time. My college was fairly isolated, so part-time jobs in the nearest town were hard to find. I did get some extra income from a work-study program, but the hours started to interfere with my class schedule. I was a theater major, and I had to take time off from work-study in order to perform shows. My student loan money kept me fed and clean during the lean times.

I would tell college students today to take this financial stuff seriously, especially if their majors are notoriously short on employment opportunities. It took me years to find work in the creative arts, and my income is not very steady. Defaulting on a student loan is no fun, so only borrow as much money as you need to get by.

By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 10, 2014

I would strongly urge college students to control themselves when applying for personal student loans. The temptation is always there to borrow enough money to live very comfortably while in school. College student loans are very easy to get, but also very challenging to pay off.

Personally, I wish I hadn't applied for the maximum amount of loan money available to me as a student. If I had to do it over again, I would have worked a part-time job in town and also applied for a student work-study program. The money from my student loan did keep me alive, and I could even afford to do a few things besides eat, sleep and study. But the interest on that loan has ballooned in recent years, and it takes a very large chunk out of my budget every month.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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