What is Room and Board in College?

Tyson Schritter

By: Tyson Schritter, Chief Operating Officer – Colleges of Distinction

Room and board in college is defined as on-campus college housing with a meal plan included. It is a convenient setup that allows students to live on campus with easy, accountable access to food. Some colleges require incoming freshmen to sign up for room & board for their first year or two of college, but it is often an option available for any student throughout their four years.

“Room” in Room and Board, means…

The “room” part can be taken literally; it’s basically your college bedroom, where you can sleep, study, and hang out with your friends. Your room typically comes with the basics (a bed, desk, dresser), which can help you avoid the pain of bringing your own big, bulky furniture. There are usually various rooming options, which can range from single-resident dorms to shared suite-style rooms.

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Here’s what “Board” refers to…

The term “board” refers to the meal plan, which can take many forms. Schools may offer plans that have a set number of meals per day, a set of meals per week, or unlimited access to the dining hall. One example is a college that provides a plan where students are given a set number of points at the beginning of the year. It’s then up to the students to budget their points for their daily meals, but they are given enough not to worry about running out! And as an incentive to opt in to a meal plans, some school make it cheaper to purchase food with dining points than with real money. Plans such as these are usually restricted to on-campus dining facilities, though sometimes they partner with local restaurants to take their points.

Things to Consider When Signing up for Room and Board: 

While you’re preparing to start your college career, consider signing up for room and board. Although it can be a bit pricey, it can be extremely convenient with many benefits. Staying on campus allows you to live close to your classes and the college community, giving you a strong, immersive experience of the college experience. What’s more, housing and dining plans allow you to rest easy knowing that you are guaranteed to have all your basic living/eating needs met. With room & board, your big transition to college feel just a bit easier!

Average Room and Board Costs for 2023

According to EducationData.org, Public 4-year institutions charge an annual average of $11,520 for room and board for on-campus residents, while off-campus boarders incur a cost of $11,365. In private nonprofit institutions, on-campus residents pay an average of $13,028 per academic year, whereas those living off campus face an expense of $11,269.

On Campus Room and Board Costs for the Most Selective Colleges in the US

California Institute of Technology$18,606
Harvard University$19,502
Columbia University in the City of New York$16,286
Massachusetts Institute of Technology$18,790
Stanford University$18,619
Brown University$15,840
University of Chicago$18,396
Yale University$18,450
Dartmouth College$18,099
Duke University$16,651
Princeton University$18,630
Amherst College$16,750
Cornell University$16,988
Johns Hopkins University$17,640
Northeastern University$18,430
Northwestern University$19,440
Pomona College$19,358
Swarthmore College$18,026
University of Pennsylvania$17,888
Vanderbilt University$19,862
Colby College$16,330
Williams College$15,530
Barnard College$19,364
Bowdoin College$16,772
Rice University$15,000
University of California-Los Angeles$17,231
Claremont McKenna College$18,712
Curtis Institute of Music$19,000
Tufts University$16,778
Carnegie Mellon University$16,486
Emory University$17,016
Grinnell College$15,048
The Juilliard School$20,310
Tulane University of Louisiana$17,346
University of California-Berkeley$21,402
Colgate University$16,106
Georgetown University$18,824
Hamilton College$15,910
New York University$20,272
University of Southern California$17,436
Washington University in St Louis$18,470
Harvey Mudd College$19,879
Middlebury College$17,800
University of Notre Dame$16,710
Bates College$17,224
Boston University$17,400
Haverford College$17,982
Wellesley College$19,080
Wesleyan University$18,180
Colorado College$14,376
Boston College$16,120
Carleton College$15,990
Davidson College$15,750
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus$12,342
Rhode Island School of Design$15,234
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill$12,254
Washington and Lee University$16,920
Pitzer College$19,854

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