This is Episode 7, and today were talking about What the Estimated Cost of Attendance Means (COA) to a student. Every post-secondary institution that receives federal financial aid funds must post a Net Price Calculator that shows the institution’s Cost of Attendance for a student to attend any program leading to a degree or certificate. This estimated cost includes several items.
The first is tuition, usually at the full-time rate of at least 12 semester hours. The second are the fees usually associated with the school that are required and tied to the tuition that students pay. Third, Room and Board are in this equation, with room and board being the total cost of living on campus at the least expensive rate. Or, the average cost to live in the area immediately off campus in a private residence.
Books and supplies are included as well. However, unless a student is in a career training school that has a set price for the books and supplies students will need, the average price of this cost is used as a part of each students COA, with the real cost of these items varying from student to student.
Now why do schools have to publish these costs up front? Because the federal government uses the published cost of attendance to establish the limits for qualified financial aid and student loans available to the student. In essence, the COA sets the ceiling for aid, while the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC sets the floor where aid needs to begin.
Now since the COA sets the ceiling, it doesn’t hurt to try to raise that ceiling to qualify for more aid if possible. So here’s a quick tip: Appeal your COA if you can! If any of your real costs are higher than the estimated costs, contact your financial aid office and tell them why. They will likely have an appeal procedure you will need to complete to have your COA reconsidered. And luckily, a students COA can only go up or stay unchanged based on an appeal, not go down. So students and parents don’t need to worry about upsetting the apple cart too much.
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