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Low and moderate budgets for developing student expense budgets

College Board's nine-month and twelve-month living expense budgets show living expense costs by region and metropolitan area. Both a moderate and a low budget are provided. The budgets reflect increases in the Consumer Price Index (calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) of 1.4 percent for 2020 and 7.0 percent for 2021.

The budgets are developed based on data from the most recent years’ Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The CES microdata was queried to generate budgets for additional Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) with significant population sizes. Consequently, the regional tables of the living expense budget reflect 35 MSAs, compared to 22 in published regional data tables.

Since budgets cannot be established for every area of the country, no MSA’s budget falls below the base budget.

Note: These budgets are provided to assist financial aid officers in developing living expense budgets for their independent, off-campus students. The budgets should not be confused with the actual boarding expenses experienced by an on-campus student. These budgets are intended as broad guidelines or starting points which should be adjusted to local economies, individual situations, and Department of Education Cost of Attendance guidelines.

The base budgets are:

  2022-23 2023-24
Moderate (Prevailing) Budgets
12-Month $30,560 $33,520
9-Month $22,920 $25,140
Low Budgets
12-Month $20,470 $22,460
9-Month $15,360 $16,840

The approximate breakdown of the living expense component is as follows:

  2022-23 2023-24

Total Housing:

Approximate housing allowance breakdowns


Housing/Utilities (70%)

Food (30%)


Housing/Utilities (70%)

Food (30%)

Transportation 11% 11%
Miscellaneous  36% 36%


These budgets are useful tools that will help you:

  • Develop expense budgets for your independent commuting students
  • Prepare debt management materials
  • Exercise professional judgment