Estimating College Expenses

College costs include far more than just tuition. When you apply for Federal Student Aid, your college uses your Cost of Attendance (COA) in determining your financial aid award. The COA is the total amount it will cost a student to go to the school.

For full-time students, the COA includes:

  • Tuition and fees
  • On-campus room and board (or a housing and food allowance for off-campus students)
  • Plus allowances for:
    • Books
    • Supplies
    • Transportation
    • Loan fees
    • Dependent care, if applicable
    • Costs related to a disability
    • Miscellaneous expenses, including an allowance for the rental or purchase of a computer

For students attending less than half time, the COA includes only tuition and fees and an allowance for:

  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Dependent-care expenses, if applicable

Depending on your situation, you may need to plan for other costs of attending college, such as:

  • Food
  • Off-campus living expenses including utilities
  • Equipment costs such as phone, cell phone and internet
  • Clothing and laundry costs
  • Entertainment
  • Insurance for your car or possessions
  • Parking

To get started developing a college budget, see our College Budgeting Calculator.


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