Personal Finance

Know the total amount it will cost you to go to school by calculating Cost of Attendance (COA)

Cost of Attendance (COA) is the total amount it will cost you to go to school or college. Cost of attendance is generally showed as a yearly figure and is calculated to determine your financial aid eligibility. COA is calculated using specific rules established by law. The financial aid administrator at each college or school builds up an average cost of attendance for various categories of students.

The cost of attendance includes both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include mandatory fees, tuition, room, board (for off-campus students a housing & food allowance), and books and supplies. Indirect costs include transportation; loan fees, personal expenses, and dependent care (if applicable). COA also includes miscellaneous expenses such as an allowance for the purchase or rental of a personal computer.

The cost of attendance differs for students in different situations. That is, for example the COA of a California student attending a college in California will be less when compared to a New Jersey student attending the same college. The main change here will be for transportation expenses.

The COA also features reasonable costs for eligible study-abroad programs. The cost of attendance includes only tuition & fees, and an allowance for books, transportation, supplies, and dependent-care expenses for those students who are attending the college for less than half time. You can discuss with your financial aid administrator at the proposed school or college you are going to attend if you have any unusual expenses which you think might affect your COA.

Each year the financial aid administrator of the respective school or college estimates the cost of attendance. This is done to develop the estimates for awarding financial aid funds. The standard amounts spend by the students will be different depending upon the student’s lifestyle and circumstances. That is some students will spend less amount than the estimated standard amounts while some others will spend more amount than what is calculated. However, the eligibility for financial aids depends on the standard budget allowances and not on the student’s preference or money spending habits.

The cost of attendance also differs according to the students’ residency status, degree program, and college of enrollment. Remember that cost of attendance is just a budget or an estimate of how much cost you will incur to go to school or college. Therefore the actual living expenses will differ according to each individual. You can also give a request for your respective financial aid provider to increase your budget if you face higher costs owing to extenuating circumstances.