Cost of Attendance

Cost of attendance (COA) refers to the dollar amount a student will need to pay to matriculate into a college or university. While all higher education institutions have similar types of fees, the ultimate COA per student depends on their circumstances. For instance, the number of credits taken and where the student is living, at home or on campus.

Here is a breakdown of college expenses:

All institutions have a rate per credit taken which equals tuition. Tuition rates differ based on the student’s residency status (resident vs. non-resident) and level of courses (undergraduate vs. graduate).

Institutions may present the tuition rate in one lump sum, but most will separate fees associated with each credit.

Room and board are expenses to consider as traditionally students live at a campus dorm while attending college. Regardless, most college students are legally adults, and many will have the responsibility to pay for their housing and meals while pursuing a higher education.

These expenses will vary depending on the type of room selected if living on campus or the cost of rent if staying off campus. Some students may live with parents or relatives and will have little, or no, costs associated.

Books and supplies are difficult expenses to gauge per semester as each course has its own textbook(s) requirement. Moreover, students have unique needs for school supplies. We recommend students set aside at least $500 for this category.

There are various institutional fees that will be added to a student’s COA. Some are one-time fees. For example, there is a one-time fee for new students at UNLV.

Other institutional fees are per credit which means they will be recurring. For instance, CSN students pay a technology, student union, and athletics and recreation fee per credit. These fees are nominal but add to the rate of tuition. 

Transportation is an important cost, especially for those students who are living off campus. This cost will vary depending on mode of transportation. For example, a student who takes public transportation may spend less than a student with a car.

Students may want to save for miscellaneous expenses to participate in social activities such as clubs or intramural sports, or an outing with friends. Students may also want to study abroad which could entail some additional expenses.

Calculating COA

It is common for students to become overwhelmed by the task of calculating their COA. Most institutions will show the estimated total cost for a school year, which can make the COA look like an unattainable amount. However, there are different ways to breakdown the COA at an institution.   

Here are some tips to navigate the process:  

  • Review the costs associated with a particular college or university and identify the fees that apply to your circumstance. Not all costs will be applicable.  
  • Keep in mind the number of credits you plan to take for the semester. Estimated amounts for tuition and fees are usually presented according to a full-time schedule (12 or 15 credits).  
  • Financial aid sources exist to pay for the COA. Not all costs will be paid out-of-pocket. 
  • Institutions offer payment plans for remaining balances.  Therefore, if you have a balance on your account at the start of a semester, you can break it up into several payments to manage the cost.

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