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Does living off campus impact financial aid packages?

September 22, 2017

For most students, it doesn’t. For some, they save money.

Students receiving financial aid see no change to their packages if they opt to live off campus, regardless of the cost of the off-campus house.

“We do financial aid the same way because irrespective of where you live, you’re going to pay,” said Michael Bartini, the director of student aid. “Either you pay Bowdoin or you pay somebody else.”

Each year, the Office of Student Aid creates financial aid packages for accepted students and reassesses demonstrated need for returning students. According to the Student Aid website, just under 52 percent of the Class of 2021 is receiving some form of need-based grant from the College. This is a substantial increase from the approximately 45 percent of the student body who received any type of financial aid in the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the Bowdoin Common Data Set.

Yearly, the College crafts a new budget which takes into account changes in the cost of tuition, room, board and other fees. Each student’s available family contribution is then compared to the budget, and any difference between the two is compensated in the form of a financial aid package.

The housing package given reflects the set price of College housing for the year, and doesn’t change with various off-campus living circumstances.

“We put in the same amount as if you were living on campus, irrespective of what you’re paying [for off-campus housing], which could be up or down,” said Bartini.

If the price of a particular off-campus house is cheaper than what the student would pay for on-campus housing, the student retains the difference. For some students living off-campus, this difference can be substantial.

While the choice to live off campus is currently being re-examined by the College, many students decide that off-campus residence is the best option for their personal needs. If a student receiving no financial aid chooses to live off campus, the price of housing would not be included in their Bowdoin bill.

Another major change to a student’s budget that could come with electing to live off campus is a desire to decrease or drop a college meal plan altogether. For first year students, the board plan of 19 meals per week is automatically applied. All upperclass students have the freedom to change their plan to provide 14 or 10 meals per week, and those who live off campus or in on-campus apartments can choose to change their plan to nine meals per week, declining balance or choose to not have a meal plan with the College at all.

If a student living in an apartment or off campus chooses a meal plan lower than 14 meals per week, the student retains the difference between the chosen plan and the cost of the 14-meal plan.

“The resources for the 14-meal plan are sufficient for someone to eat on their own. And so if they choose not to eat here, great. If they choose to cook on their own, great. But so that we treat them fairly in financial aid, [we still give out funds equivalent to the 14-meal plan],” said Bartini.

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