Do you get paid to host a foreign exchange student? If you have a spare room in your home, then the short answer is yes. With Student RoomStay, you can earn an extra income and possibly experience a new culture without having to travel abroad yourself. Hosting an exchange student can be easier than most think, too. For example, students don’t usually care about the latest and greatest accommodations because they’re more interested in living college life to its fullest. To top it off, renting to host students for money can be highly profitable since you can charge per room.
These benefits and compensation opportunities have widened the appeal of hosting an international student, as more and more people host international students and get paid. But for this article, we want to narrow down what the difference is between hosting a student and renting a room to a student. Because although the experiences are very similar, the foreign exchange student host family stipend is not the same as solely charging for a room.
Do You Get Paid to Host an Exchange Student?
The norm these days is for host families to get paid to host a foreign exchange student, but this was not always the case.
Foreign exchange programs used to be the norm, where there was an actual one-to-one exchange of students across borders - one student goes to study abroad and another comes here to the U.S. These exchange programs utilized unpaid homestays, and even today, families who host exchange students on a J-1 visa are not permitted to be paid. The idea of these exchange programs was that the experience should be a purely learning one, where a student stays with a host family to simply observe and learn from the cultural exchange.
Today though, most internationals who come to study in the U.S. are here to do just that, study. They are seeking an educational degree or experience and need room and board along the way, and they are therefore prepared to pay for it. Homestay companies serve as a liaison between host families and international students, seeking out and qualifying potential hosts, and offering homestay options to students looking to stay with a host family during their studies.
The differences between these unpaid and paid hosting opportunities are important to note because it can potentially influence how you and your student view each other right off the bat. The transactional nature of the paid homestay relationship in no way dooms the arrangement, but it can become a point of contention between students and hosts when expectations on either side are not met.
If you rent out a room to an international student, keep in mind your student can choose to live fully immersed in your family or not. This is one of the main distinctions between hosting and solely offering a room. Host families enter an agreement knowing they need to support, diligently care for, and welcome their student into their family. However, if you are only providing housing, you and your student can decide what those boundaries will look like.
Find A Hosting Agency for Exchange Students
If you decide that you’d like to host a foreign exchange student and get paid, you will need to find a company or agency to work with, and this may take a bit more effort than you think.
The international student industry has grown exponentially in recent years, and there are more agencies than ever clamoring to find good host families. This wealth of options is good in that it allows potential hosts to shop around for a company to work with, but it also means that the best outcome requires some research on your part to find a reputable and reliable company.
In the sea of homestay companies that exist, there are unfortunately a number of them that are taking shortcuts or operating inefficiently. At best, this can cause headaches and confusion for the host family when they are looking for answers or support, and at worst, it can mean an unsafe environment for either the student or the host family!
With this reality in view, it means that you should ultimately not base the decision to work with an agency solely on who can pay you the highest stipend. Working with a good, safe, and experienced company is worth far more than the extra $50 or $100/month you could make with an unreliable or inexperienced company.
Do your due diligence and find a company that is reputable, stable, transparent about the expectations you are agreeing to in order to receive the stipend, and that will actually pay you as promised! The best companies will also guarantee support and advice for when (not if) challenges arise with your student.
You can learn more about how to find a good hosting agency in this Complete Guide to Hosting An International Student, but here is a quick rundown of some other things to look for:
- Are they CSIET accredited? The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) is a neutral watchdog non-profit that outlines strict safety and efficiency standards for the homestay industry. A company that is CSIET certified will have had to pass a rigorous yearly audit of their operations. This can offer some peace of mind to a potential host family that the company is being held accountable to a third party for how it operates.
- Do they answer your questions completely and in a timely manner?
- Do they have everything in order when it comes to details about safety, insurance, and legal documentation?
- Do they have a proven track record in the international student industry?
- Are they transparent about what they expect from you as a host family?
Responsibilities of A Paid Foreign Exchange Student Host Family
When deciding to be a host family, you should know just what you are expected to provide to earn that income. Many people just see the stipend amount and assume it will be a chunk of easy, extra cash each month. But remember that you are being paid to provide some specific services, and it’s good to consider how much of your stipend will be going toward these required expenses.
While of course, it can vary from company to company, most homestay companies require the same few basic amenities for long-term, academic year students:
- A private bedroom, closet space, and possibly a desk or table so the student can study
- 3 meals a day
- Transportation to and from school for all academic-related activities
We’ll get into some of the details of these expenses as well as some other miscellaneous costs in a bit...
How Much Money Can You Make Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student?
This is perhaps the first thing people want to know when it comes to hosting a student, but the question is actually a bit more complicated than you’d think. Depending on the length of stay, homestay company, and region, hosting an exchange student can earn you anywhere from an extra $30 a day to $1,400 per month.
First, it depends on whether you are looking to host a short-term student or a long-term student. Short-term students come to stay for camps or classes that typically last anywhere from a week to a few weeks at the most. For these short-term homestays, the daily stipend varies significantly from company to company and region to region. But generally speaking, host families can expect to make anywhere from $30-$60/day, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Student RoomStay typically compensates our short-term families in this range.
Long-term students stay with you for an entire academic semester or year (usually a year) - about 10 months. Here again, the stipend amount can vary, but in this instance not only from company to company but region to region. The cost of living in a particular city or area usually has some bearing on the stipend amount - the stipend would be higher in a place like Orange County in Southern California than it would be for the same student in somewhere like a midsize city in Oklahoma.
Competition (or lack thereof) between companies can also influence the stipend amount, as companies tend to offer a similar stipend range in a particular market or area to remain competitive with each other.
Generally speaking, homestay companies are paying around $900/month at a minimum these days.
How Much Does it Cost to Host an Exchange Student?
So you’re excited about the monthly stipend, but again, you have to remember that hosting a student does come with responsibilities and added expenses to your monthly household budget.
As we stated above, most companies typically require the same basic list of services - a private bedroom, 3 meals a day, and transportation to and from school. Within this seemingly shortlist though are expenses you may not have thought of, so let’s break those down.
Providing a private bedroom, closet space, and desk
Remember that an additional member of the household means more electricity used, more water used, and another Internet user taking up bandwidth.
Just as you wouldn’t want to walk into a hotel room or Airbnb to find musty sheets, old ragged towels, and a lumpy mattress, your student would be greatly distressed to walk into their new home and find that sort of welcome. If needed, buying a fresh new set of bedding, sheets, towels, and perhaps even a new mattress for your student will go a long way in making them feel welcome and at ease in your home. At the least, you should consider these extra expenses and not automatically assume that you “already have everything” in this area.
Desk and Storage Space
Obviously, if your homestay company requires you to provide a desk or table in the room for your student and you don’t already have one there, that will be another item you’ll need to purchase. Additionally, the student will need some closet space or way to store their belongings, so if you have a full closet and can’t empty it for the student, you will need to purchase some alternate storage items for their use.
Tidying the Room
Let’s be honest, not all of us are great at deep cleaning, or we just don’t have the time. Take an honest assessment of the room and bathroom your student will be using, and determine if you might need to have both spaces professionally cleaned. You can certainly ask that your student clean and maintain the spaces that they use (or at least help out with that task), but some spaces just need that deep cleaning for it to be ready for a student to use in the first place.
Increasing Your Grocery Budget
Even if you don’t make all three meals at home every day, you almost certainly do some regular grocery shopping, so keep in mind you will now have to factor in an additional person for each meal. Food can become a major source of contention between students and host families, and it’s best not to push your student to eat everything you eat right off the bat. Most students need some time to get used to the American diet, so expect to be buying some extra grocery items just for your student that they are comfortable eating - especially in the beginning.
Going Out to Eat
Company policies vary here, but generally speaking and within reason, you will need to pay for your student for meals out. If you do not want to pay for their bill, you will need to at least inform them beforehand and then possibly make alternate arrangements for them.
Gas and Mileage
Some host families and host parents already have a member of the household attending or working at the school where their international student studies. For them, there is not much of a need to factor in extra gas and mileage costs to transport their student because it’s already part of their expenses and routine. However, if this is not the case, you will obviously need to factor in gas and wear and mileage as an extra expense to come out of your stipend.
It is imperative that you check with your company beforehand about the details regarding transportation. Are you only required to take your student to and from school each day? What about extracurricular activities? Transportation may be a much bigger drain on your time and gas budget than you originally expect if the student is involved in activities or sports.
Keep in mind that some activities and sports don’t just mean a longer school day but additional trips back and forth to school or even to an off-site gym or meeting location, not to mention games or tournaments on weekends. Talk with your company about some of these possibilities and keep in mind that this component of caring for your student may turn out to be bigger than you originally thought it would.
Renting a Room to Students
In a nutshell, renting a room to international students is very similar to renting to a local. The students will be over 18 and legal adults, so you’re not expected to have the same responsibilities as a traditional host family. This is one of the advantages of primarily offering a room: and you can still earn on average around $1000 a month but without all of the extra obligations.
Before you begin the renting process, first make sure to check with your local laws and HOA rules. Requirements vary by city. For example, most require clean running water and working plumbing, but others go an extra step further and require large enough windows to be used as a fire escape or outdoor access directly from the rented room.
Once you confirm you can rent out a room to an international student, talk with your insurance agency about renter rates or landlord insurance if needed. Then, choose a room to rent!
Tax Considerations to Think About.
Since hosting for money involves, well, money, you will also need to determine how your stipend affects your tax situation. Most companies these days have you fill out a W-9 at the beginning of the year and then issue a 1099 at tax time. In essence, you are treated and paid like an independent contractor to the company, and you will need to pay taxes on this income (an additional subtraction coming out of your monthly stipend).
If you choose the rental route, you’ll need to pay taxes on your rental income. The amount you pay depends on your marginal tax rate (federal income tax bracket), state, and local taxes. But in better news, you’ll also be able to deduct any expenses you incur to improve the room you’re renting, like carpet, paint, and windows, as well as the entire house. To deduct these entire home expenses, divide the expenses by the square footage you’re renting out.
It’s a good idea to do the math yourself or talk to your tax professional so you know what to expect when tax season rolls around.
Earn Money Renting Your Room or Hosting An International Student with Student RoomStay
We hope this article equips you to begin your hosting journey with your eyes wide open, aware of all the realities that come with hosting an international student for money or renting out a room. We know that both hosting and renting come with unique differences, so we invite you to choose the situation that works best for you!
If hosting interests you, Student RoomStay is always looking to grow our pool of qualified host families. We know that hosting is a significant commitment on your part, so we are equally committed to supporting you 100% along the way. We offer competitive stipends, 24/7 support, and access to a local representative. Apply today!
If you’re more interested in renting out a room, we have you covered there, too. Student RoomStay offers 24/7 online and phone support, easy accommodation onboarding services, and peace of mind payment processes. Apply here!
Have any questions or just want to speak with a representative? Feel free to contact us. We are happy to help you kickstart your hosting journey with Student RoomStay!