Cost of Attendance & Financial Need

Cost of Attendance & Financial Need

Cost of Attendance

Knowing a college's "cost of attendance" (COA) is critical when comparing aid awards.  A college with a high COA may offer a generous aid package but still be more expensive than one with a much lower COA. 

What's Included in the COA

As dictated by Congress, the COA is the average cost to attend for one academic year (fall through spring). Your COA is not your bill. It includes a budget of tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses. Colleges adjust the COA yearly to reflect changes to these costs. Colleges create several official COAs that reflect differences in living costs (on-campus, off-campus, or at home) and in-state and out-of-state tuition. Your actual cost to attend may be different than the official COA depending on your personal expenses, participation in extracurricular activities, and travel expenses.

How the COA Drives Your Financial Aid

The COA dictates how much aid you can receive. Generally speaking, you cannot get financial aid in excess of your COA. This includes all forms of aid such as loans, grants, scholarships and work-study. The COA also plays a role in how much financial need you have. Financial need is used to determine how much need-based aid you can receive.