Pay For College by Renting Out Your Kid’s Bedroom?

Your son or daughter will be leaving for college soon, and it’s just hit you how much you’ll be paying out of pocket for tuition, room and board, and other college-related expenses. How can you pay high college bills—without piling debt onto the kid you love?

You could pay college bills by renting out your kid’s bedroom.

Your son won’t be using his room during the school year anyway—right?

Imagine yourself boxing up and storing all the belongings he left behind when he went off to college.

You re-carpet and paint, move in an easy chair purchased on Craigslist and an IKEA loft bed and desk—and then earn thousands of dollars each year renting the room to a student from a nearby college or grad school.

Here are 7 things to think about if you decide to pay college bills by renting out a bedroom:

1. Where will your child sleep on school breaks?

Plan that out ahead of time. At Dad’s house? In a top bunk in a sibling’s room? On a twin bed that you’ve pushed up against the wall in your cinderblock basement?

Your child can easily tolerate a little discomfort and inconvenience if it’ll lead to him having thousands of dollars less in onerous, burdensome debt after college graduation.

2. “Won’t it be weird to have someone we don’t know living in the house?”

Think of it like being a host family for a foreign exchange student through the AFS program.

That’s not weird, is it?

Your student renter starts out a stranger, but soon begins to feel like another family member.

3. How will you find a trustworthy renter?

Make a list of all the colleges and universities within a 15-minute drive of your house. Include community colleges too.

Call the main number at each college and ask, “May I speak to the housing office?”

When you reach the housing office, say, “I have a room in my home to rent to a college or graduate student. Can you help me place an ad for that?”

The college or university will likely publicize your room for rent for free.

4. Ask your potential renter for personal references.

Call all of his or her references well before move-in day, and make sure your potential renter is the kind of person you’d like to share a home with.

5. Establish ground rules.

Will this renter eat meals with your family, or use the campus food service? Will he or she have kitchen privileges in your home, complete with a special area of the refrigerator set aside for his or her personal use?

Will laundry or a garage stall be included in the rent? Will overnight guests be allowed? Who will clean the bathroom your renter uses?

Which common living areas can your renter feel free to use—and when?

Write down all your expectations ahead of time.

6. Be aware of rental income impact on financial aid eligibility.

If your child has received need-based college financial aid, you might want to wait until January 1st of your kid’s sophomore year of college to start collecting rent payments.

Why? Because at that point, spikes in your income won’t impact future financial aid eligibility.

7. See if you can delay paying the college while you collect some rent payments.

Sure, the college wants you to pay all your child’s college bills before classes start in the fall. But is that payment deadline really engraved in stone?

Call the college financial aid office and ask if it could be possible for you to have a low-interest payment plan that stretches your college payments out over months.

Voila! You just bought yourself some time that you can use to collect rent payments before paying the college.

If you pay for college by renting out a room, you’ll be in good company.

This Minneapolis Star Tribune article reports that increasing numbers of married couples are renting out rooms in their houses and apartments.

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Remember, figuring out how to pay the last minute college bills is only a small part of the picture when it comes to getting your kid through college debt-free. 

For clear, step-by-step help with the whole process from beginning to end, it takes just 7 hours to read my book:

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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

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What about you? What are your thoughts about renting out a bedroom to keep college debt down?

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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.