Understanding and Comparing Financial Aid Offer Letters

Understanding and Comparing Financial Aid Offer Letters

What is Cost of Attendance (COA)

Five components:

  • Tuition & fees
  • Room & board
  • Books & supplies
  • Transportation
  • Personal expense

Some are direct (tuition), some are indirect (personal expenses)


If only COA was that simple…

  • Some aren’t realistic
  • Some are just plain missing
  • Example: Transportation– At UC Davis (on campus): $564– At College of the Siskiyous: $1300– At Simpson University: None

Components can be fixed or variable

  • You may be able to get by with less than a school thinks you need
  • Even a school’s estimate could vary
  • Example: Room & Board at Shasta College

– Living at home: $4,348
– Living away from home: $10,864
– Living on campus: $5,790

What is Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?

  • Amount family can reasonably be expected to contribute
  • Stays the same regardless of college
  • Two components:
    – Parent contribution
    – Student contribution
  • Calculated using data from FAFSA

So What is Financial Need?

Basic math:

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution =Financial Need