What is "Cost of Attendance"

As you are comparing universities and the various financial aid packages you have been offered, you will want to become familiar with two different ways to look at the costs you will incur.

Direct Costs

The first and possibly the most important 'cost' to you should include the Direct Costs of attending a college. These are the actual costs that you will need to pay for with either financial aid or out of your own pocket every semester:

  1. Room
  2. Board (Food)
  3. Books
  4. Tuition

Find out what these expenses will be at each institution and use these figures to compare schools' financial aid packages and your financial obligation.

Budgeted Cost of Attendance

Financial Aid Offices calculate Cost of Attendance in a different way. Universities can include several other components in determining costs and use 'budgeted' amounts rather than actual. The cost of attendance calculated by the Financial Aid Office is based on costs from reported data, survey data and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. With limited exceptions, a student's financial aid and other educational assistance cannot exceed the school's published Cost of Attendance figure.

  • Tuition - The price you are charged for taking classes. It is based on the number of credits you enroll in. The full tuition cost includes segregated fees and is billed on a semester basis.
  • Books and Supplies - The estimate of books and supplies is based on average costs for undergraduate and graduate students. A student's actual costs will vary based on major, year in school and types of courses taken.
  • Room/Housing – The average cost a student pays for a place to stay while attending college. The amount of this allowance will differ for students living on or off campus with roommates vs. students who live with parents/relatives.
  • Board (Food) – Like housing, food costs are also calculated differently for students living on or off campus with roommates vs. commuter students living with parents. The cost is updated each year based on the projected increase in the university food services costs as well as student surveys.
  • Personal/Miscellaneous – Includes everyday living expenses such as laundry, toiletries, and a modest spending allowance for clothing and activities.
  • Transportation – A daily allowance for travel to and from school or occasional trips home for students living on campus. There is an additional allowance available for students with regular commutes exceeding 25 miles round trip.