Housing in Rome is expensive and difficult to find. Once you’ve accepted that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if something should work out.
There are a few housing options set up specifically for lay students at the pontifical universities:
Rumour has it that the Anglican Church of St. Paul Within-the-Walls (on Via Nazionale, near the Angelicum) still rents rooms to students, but that there is a waiting list. There is nothing listed on the St. Paul’s website about this, but you might try contacting the church directly.
The Angelicum has a student housing "office" that publishes a list of apartments available for students. This list can be found at the Ang itself, in the building that houses the Theology Dean’s office, on a bulletin board on ground floor. Students from other schools make use of it also. If you aren't in Rome or can't easily access that list, here is contact info for the student housing office:
Posting a request on the Facebook group for lay students may actually be the best way of finding a living situation. There is another Facebook group called "Casa Roma", whose aim is to "create a network for anyone who is in search of living arrangements or roommates in the Rome area." Yet another international Facebook group, "Expats Living in Rome," has many apartment listings (and job listings). You might also look at Rome Craigslist or Wanted in Rome for classifieds on apartments.
A growing number of lay students have begun renting apartments in Santa Marinella. This small town on the beach is about an hour from Rome by train. Since it is a summer beach town, landlords rent apartments during the school year at low rates, simply to have some income from the apartments. (However, some landlords, seeing that "Nella" is becoming a popular place for foreign students, have begun to raise rents.) As the town is small, it’s easier for lay students to get together socially and have a sense of community. Students with families often find this an ideal situation. So do students at Regina Apostolorum, since the school is just as close to Santa Marinella as it is to Rome (at least in terms of travel time).
Students at the pontifical universities living in Santa Marinella have started a blog, “Santa Marinella Roundtable,” and a Facebook group, “Santa Marinella: Home Away from Home.” The Facebook group seems to get more traffic than the blog. Certain rental agencies in Santa Marinella are more student-friendly than others, so it would be wise to ask the Facebook group which rental agencies students are currently using. There may also be apartments or rooms already available with other students.
Housing Options for Women
There are many convents which offer housing to female students. The living situations and prices can differ greatly from one place to another, so shop around and ask questions. Usually meals are included, and there is almost always a curfew. In some of these places, the sisters don’t care if you stay out—you will simply be locked out. In others, the majority of girls are younger students and the sisters frown on your staying somewhere else. Some are largely Italian college students; some are quite international. Often you will be assigned a roommate, as single rooms are rare. Here is a list of these convents posted by the Diocese of Rome.
The Apostles of the Interior Life (Apostole della Vita Interiore) have an apartment off Via Flaminia that they rent out to female students. The number of places available is, of course, limited. Contact them for further information.
Some students find both housing and work as an au pair. This can be a substantial savings, but also an overwhelming time commitment for a student. See the page on “Funding your Education” for more information on this.
Housing Options for Men
The Diocese of Rome also provides a smaller list of religious houses and other organizations that offer housing to male students. Not on that list, but recommended by the Lateran University, is the Monastero di S. Stefano Protomartire of the Monaci Benedettine Silvestrini. The monastery houses theology students: priests, seminarians, and male lay students.
The Angelicum has a “convitto” (Convitto Internazionale San Tommaso) that houses priests, religious men, and a few male lay students from various schools. This option is no longer listed on the Angelicum’s redesigned website. The prices listed previously were somewhat high. There is some contact info on page 2 of this brochure from the Angelicum's Faculty of Canon Law.
The Casa Balthasar offers a program where “young Christian students of all nationalities, who aspire to give themselves totally to the Lord in one or another form of consecrated life, live or gather daily. While studying at universities in Rome, they wish to live a time of discernment and election. The Casa Balthasar provides an extra-academic spiritual and intellectual formation, in the spirit of the Gospel and the Christian tradition.” Obviously, this is not simply a living arrangement. However, if a young man is coming to study in Rome with the goal of discerning the priesthood or religious life, this community might be an ideal place. Our current Pope was involved with the founding of this house when he was Cardinal Ratzinger.
Temporary Housing Arrangements / Pensione
Finally, if you are looking for temporary housing for yourself or for friends/family who are visiting, pensione run by religious communities are a good option. Here is a list of various pensione and their prices put out by the youth center Centro San Lorenzo. The American parish in Rome, Santa Susanna, also puts out a list of pensione and prices. Other lists without prices can be found on the North American College’s website, here, here and here (3 different lists). And here's a list from a Jesuit website. Some of the religious houses on these lists may also offer long-term housing for female students.
The book Bed and Blessings Italy: A Guide to Monasteries and Convents Available for Overnight Lodging, by June and Ann Walsh (1999) can be helpful, but much of the information is out of date. The Guide to Lodging in Italy’s Monasteries (3rd edition) by Eileen Barish is more recent, but lists fewer convents in Rome. It may be helpful if you are planning to travel around Italy. Also helpful for trips outside Rome may be Europe’s Monastery and Convent Guesthouses, by Kevin J. Wright.
Of course, you can always try www.hostelworld.com for hostels both within and outside Rome. They are usually cheaper than convents and have no curfews; on the other hand, the atmosphere is a bit different! One hostel that a number of students have used is Casa Olmata (www.casaolmata.com). It’s located on the better side of Santa Maria Maggiore, near Via Cavour and Trajan’s Markets, not near Termini. A filling breakfast each day and pasta dinners every other night help with the food budget. The atmosphere is good too—it's not a "party hostel."