What Does Cost of Attendance Include?

A school’s Cost of Attendance (COA) includes all the necessary expenses a student typically incurs for a full academic year. Tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses are all factored into your Cost of Attendance.

What Goes Into Cost of Attendance

The Cost of Attendance is generally calculated using two categories: direct costs and indirect costs.

Direct Costs

Direct costs are expenses paid directly to your college and

  • Tuition
  • Related fees
  • Room and Board

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs are expenses that are not always paid directly to your school, but are still considered necessary for your education:

  • Books and supplies
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses

Add your direct costs to your indirect costs to get your full Cost of Attendance. While some of the figures provided by your school are going to be accurate down to the last penny, in most cases they should be considered a close estimate, depending on which options you choose.

How Does Cost of Attendance Vary?

Schools will provide a range of COA figures to fit a variety of situations. Some examples include:

  • COA for in-state students
  • COA for out-of-state students
  • COA for students living at home
  • COA for part-time students

Research your school’s options for housing, meal plans, and transportation to get a clearer idea of your personal Cost of Attendance.

Cost of Attendance and Financial Aid

If you’ve filed your FAFSA® for financial aid, your school will subtract your Expected Family Contribution from their Cost of Attendance to determine your financial need. Your financial need is the amount your school anticipates you need in financial aid to pay for college for the academic year.

Your Financial Aid Award Letter

Schools will note their Cost of Attendance on your financial aid award letter, but it’s crucial that you review the expenses listed to ensure everything is included. Not all schools will include things like room and board, or indirect expenses like books and transportation. Click here for a guide for reading your award letter.

If you’ve received a low Cost of Attendance estimate on your financial aid offer letter, you may believe you are receiving more financial aid than you really are.

If you’re unsure if your school has included certain expenses in their estimate, contact the financial aid office for a fuller explanation.