Cost of attendance

Your cost of attendance (COA) is one of several important things you should always know about financing your dental school education.

Your 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 may be referred to as the financial aid budget. Your COA will likely change slightly from year to year, in part based on the budget duration (e.g. how long your school year lasts). Your COA usually includes:

  • Tuition and fees. 
  • Books and supplies.
  • Room and board.
  • Transportation.
  • Personal expenses.
  • Medical insurance.
  • Dental instrument rentals and purchases.

To find the COA for the school or program you plan to attend, contact the FAO directly or check the school's website. 


It is important to know that some of the expenses in your COA are billed directly to you as charges against your student account. This will likely be covered at orientation your first year. One simple example of this is tuition and fees. Other expenses in your COA are ones you have some control over (for example, living, transportation and personal expenses). When establishing your monthly budget, focus on these items as you look 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 (this should be between nine and 12 months, but check with your FAO). This will give you the estimated monthly living allowance that is part of your financial aid budget. Try to live under this budgeted amount, because even though you can borrow up to the COA less other aid, that doesn’t mean you have to.

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 COA each year, especially since borrowing “up to budget” may be with the direct PLUS (formerly known as Grad PLUS) loan, which always has a 1 percent higher interest rate.
  • 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 budget. This can save you money since interest accrues on the amount disbursed, and delaying disbursement a bit can help limit the amount of interest accrual during school.
    • Talk with family members (parents, spouse, partner and other family members) about paying interest on some of your loans during school, because direct unsubsidized and direct PLUS loans start to accrue interest as soon as they are disbursed.
    • Consider service commitment scholarship programs like the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and the armed forces, or programs that may be offered through your state.