Cost of attendance
(COA) is an estimate of the total amount of money it should cost most students
at a specific institution to attend one year of school. The yearly COA is
determined by each school’s financial aid office (FAO) and usually includes:
- Tuition and fees,
- Books and supplies,
- Room and board,
- Personal expenses,
- Medical insurance, and
- Dental instrument rentals and
To find the COA for
the school or program you plan to attend, contact the FAO directly or check the
Look at your annual COA and determine what you may have some control over (for
example, living, transportation and personal expenses) compared with what you
do not have any control over (for example, tuition and fees), and try to focus
on these items when looking for ways to reduce your cost. To help determine
your monthly budget, take the total annual amount of those items under your
control (living, transportation and personal expenses) and divide that by the
number of months in your financial aid budget (should be between nine and 12
months). This will give you an estimated monthly financial aid budget. Try to live
under this budgeted amount if possible.
Ways to control and reduce costs
- Control what you can in your
COA, but don’t be overly concerned about items you have no control over,
like tuition and fees.
- Don’t assume you need the
entire amount of money in your financial aid budget, especially since
borrowing “up to budget” may be with the more expensive Grad PLUS Loan.
- You can always borrow
additional money during the academic year (up to your total COA), so
consider borrowing less to start with and see how that works within your
- Talk with family members
(parents, spouse, partner) about paying interest on some of your loans
during school, because Unsubsidized Stafford and Grad PLUS Loans start to
accrue interest as soon as they are released to you.
- Consider service commitment
scholarship programs like the National Health
Service Corps (NHSC) and
the armed forces.