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.
- Personal expenses.
- Medical insurance.
- Dental instrument rentals and
To find the COA for
the school or program you plan to attend, contact the FAO directly or check the
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.
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.
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.