Cost of attendance
(COA) is an estimate of the total amount of money it should cost most students
at a specific institution to attend one year of school. The
yearly COA is determined by each school’s financial aid office (FAO) and may be
referred to as the financial aid budget. It usually includes:
- Tuition and fees.
- Books and supplies.
- Room and board.
- Personal expenses.
- Medical insurance.
- Dental instrument rentals and
To find the COA for
the school or program you plan to attend, contact the FAO directly or check the
Look at your annual COA and determine what you may have some control over (for
example, living, transportation and personal expenses) compared with what you
do not have any control over (for example, tuition and fees), and focus
on these items when looking for ways to reduce your cost. To help determine
your monthly budget, take the total annual amount of those items under your
control (living, transportation and personal expenses) and divide that by the
number of months in your financial aid budget (should be between nine and 12
months, check with your FAO). This
will give you an estimated monthly financial aid budget. Try to live under this
budgeted amount, because even though you can borrow up to the COA less other
aid, that doesn’t mean you have to.
Ways to control and reduce costs
- Control what you can in your
COA, but don’t be overly concerned about items you have no control over,
like tuition and fees.
- Don’t assume you need the
entire amount of money in your financial aid budget, especially since
borrowing “up to budget” may
be with the more expensive direct PLUS (formerly known as Grad PLUS) loan.
can always borrow additional money during the academic year (up to your
total COA), so consider borrowing less to start with and see how that
works within your budget. This can save you money since interest accrues
on the amount disbursed, and delaying disbursement a bit can help limit
the amount of interest accrual during school.
with family members (parents, spouse or your partner) about paying
interest on some of your loans during school, because direct unsubsidized and
direct PLUS loans start to accrue interest as soon as they are disbursed.
- Consider service commitment
scholarship programs like the National Health
Service Corps (NHSC) and the armed
forces, or programs that may be offered through your state.