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2018-19 low and moderate budgets for developing student expense budgets

The College Board's 2018-19 nine- 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 2.1 percent for 2016.

The budgets are developed based on data from the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) and the Indexes of Comparative Costs, both produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Budget regions correspond to the metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. The CES sample changes about every 10 years, which changes the MSAs for which indexes can be developed. There were 28 MSAs for the period from 1996 to 2004, but that number dropped to 24 for 2005. Therefore, the regional tables of the living expense budget now reflect only 24 MSAs. Also, since a factor could not be established for every region of the country, no region is adjusted by a value of less than 1.0.

The base budgets for 2018-19 are:

Moderate (Prevailing) Budgets
12 Month $24,980
9 Month $18,730


Low Budgets
12 Month $16,730
9 Month $12,550

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

  • Housing: 53%
  • Transportation: 18%
  • Miscellaneous: 29%

The housing allowance breaks down between housing (including utilities) and food at approximately 74 percent and 26 percent.

These budgets are useful tools that will help you:

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

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.