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More About College Cost Of Attendance

Written by Kimberly Linhares

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August 3, 2021

Cost of attendance (COA) is a college’s total estimated expenses for one year including tuition, books, supplies, travel, room and board, loan fees and other expenses. A colleges’ cost of attendance is used to determine each student’s eligibility for financial aid such as grants and loans. College cost of attendance is the average annual cost to study at a particular college or university. Hence, it is used, to sum up, how much financial aid a student is eligible for, based on the Expected Family Contribution from their FAFSA. Most receive some type of financial aid, thus very few students pay the full cost of attendance.

College Cost Of Attendance

What Is Cost Of Attendance (COA)?

The definition of the standard cost of attendance is college costs. In the United States, the cost of attendance (also known as the price of attendance) is a legal term for the estimated full and reasonable cost of completing a full academic year (usually, nine months) as a full-time student. The cost of attendance is published by each educational institution and includes a list of,

  • Tuition and fees payable to the institution
  • Books and supplies
  • Rooms and board
  • Personal costs (medical, toiletries, clothing, laundry, etc)
  • Transportation to and from the school

Every secondary institution that receives federal financial aid funds is required to post its college cost of attendance as of October 29, 2011. Colleges are also needed to post a Net Price Calculator, that determines for each prospective or current student’s customized Net Price, which is the COA minus need and merit-based grant aid (not including loans or work-study programs) Remember, financial aid cannot exceed the cost of attendance.

If a student has expenses that are exceeding the allowances in the Standard Cost of Attendance, they may request a Professional Judgment Review. Please note that the Office of Financial Aid does include an allowance for average origination fees and may also consider budget increases for actual course fees.

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Understanding Cost Of Attendance (COA)

Many schools calculate and publish more than one cost of attendance, based on the conditions of the students. For undergraduate students, there may be different COAs for those who live on campus or off-campus or commute from home. State colleges and universities list various college costs of attendance for in-state and out-of-state students. Graduate and professional students may have different COAs. Some colleges also break their COAs down into chargeable or direct charges (such as tuition, room, and board). Indirect expenditure that a student would pay for separately (such as travel or meals off campus). The cost of attendance is an evaluative number for students and parents who use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the information the student and their parents provide when they fill out the FAFSA. It is the government’s approximation of what the family might reasonably be expected to pay for a year of college, based on its income. The number is used to know the amount of financial aid a student is qualified to receive. Federal law explains the expenses that colleges must include in calculating the cost of attendance. Most colleges publish those costs on their websites and elsewhere. That makes it quite easy for students and parents to compare schools side by side. 

Quick Guide: College Costs Of Attendance

The total cost of attending a post-secondary institution (college, university, vocational & technical schools, or graduate schools) for one academic year. The cost of attendance usually includes tuition, fees, room, board, supplies, travel, and personal expenses.

  1. Tuition and Fees: These are the prices you pay for taking classes at the college. This amount can change based on your academic program. Some colleges charge a fee inclusive of the total for tuition, fees, and room and board combined.
  2. Room and Board: Colleges usually offer a variety of dorm room options and meal plans to students who live on campus. The charges vary depending on what plan you choose. If you decide to live at home or off-campus, you’ll have your own rent and meal costs to consider in your college costs.
  3. Books and Supplies: You’ll need books and other course materials. The yearly books and supplies in-state estimate for the average full-time student at a four-year public college is about $1,298. You may be able to lower these costs by buying used textbooks or renting them.
  4. Personal Expenses: These include laundry, cell phone bills, eating outside, and anything else you normally spend money on. Figure out how you plan to spend on these expenses and add that amount to your budget.
  5. Travel: Whether you commute to campus or take the occasional trip home, you’ll have transportation costs. These will vary depending on how you travel and how often you travel. You could find out about student discounts on travel costs. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas if you own a car.

Tuition, fees, and room and board are typically paid directly to the school by either you or your financial aid package, which can consist of scholarships, grants, and student loans. Other expenses would be your responsibility to pay for over the course of the year. You could use the proceeds of a student loan if there’s anything remaining after tuition. Make sure to take note of a school year is listed for the college costs of attendance. Older information may not be as precise about the tuition and cost of attendance. You might have to increase the cost of attendance to get the amount for the current year. You also may want to step ahead and do the math for the cost of each year you will be attending so that you are aware of a more authentic cost.

Research And Prepare To Paying For College

You can reduce your cost of attendance by applying for scholarships, looking for grant opportunities, choosing an in-state school, pursuing work-study opportunities, or working part-time jobs. But don’t forget to do proper research based on your budget, before you pick a college.

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