Understanding What College Really Costs
What Is Cost of Attendance (COA)?
The published cost of attendance (COA), also called the "sticker price," is
the sum of all costs associated with attending a particular college. COA has four
- Tuition and fees, including equipment, materials, and supplies that are required
of all students in a certain program of study;
- Room and board, which will vary based on whether you live on campus, off campus,
or with your family;
- Books and supplies, which may include the cost of a personal computer; and
- Other expenses, such as transportation.
COA varies from college to college. Public colleges have different COAs for in-state
and out-of-state students. To qualify for in-state tuition, you must meet a state's
residency requirements. Unlike public colleges, private colleges do not have in-
and out-of-state tuition. To get a published COA from a particular college, check
its website or contact the admissions office.
Published COA vs. Net Cost of College
Remember, the COA does not represent your real cost for a particular college. College
financial aid offices use their COA, along with your
expected family contribution (EFC),
to determine the amount of student aid you will be awarded as
Your true net cost (also called "out-of-pocket cost") for a particular college is
calculated by subtracting grants and scholarships from the published COA.
Because the colleges that accept you won't determine your financial aid awards until
late in the admissions process (usually March or April), it is nearly impossible
for students and their families to predict what their net cost will be. However,
the new, personalized
College Cost & Planning Report®
from StudentAid.com can calculate your student aid eligibility before you apply
to colleges. This service provides a side-by-side comparison of the published COA,
financial aid eligibility, and estimated net cost for the colleges that interest
you to help you choose the ones that fit your career goals and your bank account.