By Ryan Laspina
Analyst, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS
When you start the process of attending college, you’ll hear the term “Cost of Attendance” (COA). The COA is the final cost of all your expenses that result from the school you choose.
COA consists of different parts:
One of the biggest expenses associated with attending college is tuition. Tuition is the cost of taking courses at your school.
It is no secret that tuition costs across the country are already high and rising each year. Selecting a school that offers tuition at a fair rate should be a major preliminary consideration as you’re deciding what college to attend.
Room and Board
Room and board is usually associated with brick-and-mortar schools, but even online universities will factor it into their COA. Room covers your living costs (such as a campus dorm or apartment), while board covers other necessary living items, like food, utilities and other necessities.
If you plan to attend an online university, look for a school that calculates little to no room and board fees in your COA. Living at home while attending school is a great way to cut down on student loan debt.
Books, Supplies and Fees
One of the best ways to cut college costs is to buy books cheaply. Campus bookstores often charge exorbitant prices for textbooks, so using an online site to buy or rent used books is a great decision. Also, remember that APUS offers a book grant to students who are enrolled in undergraduate courses for credit.
Every school will be different. Talk with a Federal Student Aid (FSA) advisor or Admissions Office counselor to determine what fees are associated with each school you are considering.
In today’s world, electronic products like laptops, printers and Microsoft Office software are necessities for college. Schools understand this fact, so they build equipment expenses into COA.
However, you don’t have to purchase a high-end laptop and printer just because these costs are built into COA. Your electronic equipment should be reliable and work properly, but it does not need unnecessary bells and whistles.
Travel and Miscellaneous Expenses
Travel costs are more geared toward commuters at a brick-and-mortar school. Car payments, gas money and repairs are all expenses associated with being a commuter.
When you’re an online student, miscellaneous expenses could come into play. These costs include home/mobile phone bills and Internet usage bills.
FSA Can Help Pay Some COA Expenses
Federal Student Aid (FSA) can be used to help pay some of your COA expenses. Remember, however, that FSA refunds should only be used for necessary college expenses. If it does not fall under your school’s COA, it is not a necessary expense and should not be paid through FSA.