The Cost of Attendance (COA) is calculated by schools (as dictated by Congress) to estimate the total costs of attending for one year. It not only includes tuition and housing, but also books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, dependent care (if applicable), computer/laptop, and study abroad programs. Your True Cost of College may be higher/lower. Here are some ways you can affect your COA.

Tuition & Fees
+COST $ Take remedial classes, switch majors late or often, or retake classes.
-SAVE $ Enter college with Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), dual enrollment, credit by examination, or transfer credits from community college. Max your ACT or SAT score and scholarships.

Housing & Meals (Room & Board)
+COST $ Eat out often, and make frequent coffee stops or vending machine purchases. 
-SAVE $ Buy bulk snacks. Take advantage of student discounts and promotions. Choose the regular room rather than the poolside apartment.

Books & Supplies
+COST $ Buy fancy supplies, extra electronics — NEW everything.
-SAVE $ Buy an inexpensive personal printer (or share with your roommate!) to save on campus printing charges. Check for student deals on computers and other school supplies. Renting or buy used textbooks. Compare Chegg or Amazon pricing to your campus bookstore’s, and use low-price match guarantees. Sell back books you don’t want to keep after the semester—the longer you wait, the less resale value they’ll have.

Travel & Transportation
+COST $ Make frequent trips home, especially if by air. 
-SAVE $ Engage  on-campus, and work to reduce travel expenses. Grocery delivery services could be an option. Consider train or bus travel instead of air.

Miscellaneous (Personal Expenses)
+COST $ Buy hip new clothing, furniture, entertainment, and travel.
-SAVE $ Determine a budget, and stay within it. Don’t overuse credit options. Take advantage of FREE activities, often promoted by colleges to engage students, and discounted student pricing where available.

Loan Fees
Some college loans charge origination fees which are added as a percentage to the total loan amount. Be sure to include these in your calculations as they will affect your available funds. 

Scholarship and grant aid are considered income to the student. Consult your financial advisor for information about how to minimize your student’s tax liability.

Helpful Resources

  • The College Scoreboard allows families to compare colleges and access financial aid information. A downloadable How-To-Guide shows you what to look for when choosing a college and how to successfully search using the College Scorecard
  • TuitionFit allows students and families  to share the individual college offers they receive. They organize and anonymously display that data so that we can all compare real-time college prices.
  • Every school has its own online Net Price Calculator. U.S. News & World Report has compiled a list of these tools for 300 of the top national universities and national liberal arts colleges. 
  • The ACT College/University Cost Comparison Worksheet allows you to enter your estimates of expenses, financial aid, and loans to compare schools side-by-side.