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University of Denver Financial Aid
Financial Aid 101: Understanding Your Cost of Attendance

The next few emails in our series will be helpful to have on hand as you begin comparing financial aid award offers from different schools and start making decisions about how to finance your education. Today's email explains a section you will see on all award letters: cost of attendance.

What exactly is the "cost of attendance?"
The cost of attendance (COA)—sometimes referred to as the "student budget"—is an estimate of what it costs a typical student to attend a college or university for one academic year. Don't be startled by the COA you see on your award letter from the University of Denver. Your cost of attendance doesn't only include tuition; it takes into account your basic living expenses, too.

Why is this listed on my financial aid award letter?
Every student who applies for aid is assigned a cost of attendance. This COA serves two purposes:

  1. to give you an estimate of the cost to attend DU for one year, and
  2. to set a limit on the amount of financial aid you can receive during the academic year (which federal regulations require us to do).

This means your actual expenses may be different from what's listed on your award letter, and the total amount of your aid—including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study—can't exceed your total cost of attendance.

What's included in my COA?
Your cost of attendance is made up of two different types of costs: direct and indirect.

  • Direct costs are items that will appear on your University bill, such as tuition, fees, and room and board (if you live on campus).
  • Indirect costs will not appear on your bill, but are estimated costs associated with going to college and should be included in your budget. These include items like books, transportation and personal expenses.

Here's an example...
A typical, DU undergraduate student living on campus and taking a full load of classes has the following cost of attendance for the 2014-15 school year (figures for the 2015-16 school year will be available on our website in a couple of weeks):

Direct Costs: Tuition $41,112 
  Fees 978 
  Room & Board 11,307 
  Subtotal $53,937 
Indirect Costs: Books 1,800 
  Transportation Expenses 1,167 
  Personal Expenses 1,332 
  Average Loan Fees 69 
  Cost of Attendance $57,765 

Let's take this example and break down each line-item into further detail:

  • Tuition and Fees: These figures reflect the cost of tuition and fees for a student taking 12-18 credits during each of the fall, winter and spring quarters of the 2014-15 academic year (which is considered full time).
  • Room & Board: Otherwise known as "housing and meals," DU calculates this figure by using the weighted average of a double-occupancy room on campus and the "Unlimited" meal plan. (Want to know more specific rates? Visit the Housing & Residential Education website.)
  • Books: This is the average cost of books and supplies for a typical student for the entire academic year. You will not be billed directly by DU for books or supplies.
  • Transportation: This is an estimate of the cost of traveling to and from campus, and the cost of operating and maintaining a vehicle. Unless you buy a DU parking permit, you will not be billed directly for transportation costs.
  • Personal Expenses: This is an estimate of costs for clothing, haircuts, entertainment, etc. for the year. What you actually spend on these types of items will likely be different. These items will not appear on your DU bill.
  • Average Loan Fees: There is an origination fee of 1.072% for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized student loans, which is taken out of the loan before funds are sent to DU. The $69 listed above is the average fee for students who borrow these loans. Actual fees will depend on the amount you borrow (if any).

Where do these figures come from?
Direct costs are determined by the University of Denver. For indirect costs, we use the recommended guidelines published by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. All figures change slightly every year.

One final note...
When comparing financial aid packages from other schools, it's important to focus on your unmet cost (or "bottom line")—not just the sticker price or the amount of financial aid you were awarded. The Financial Aid 101 email you'll receive in two weeks will address how to compare offers and determine your unmet cost to attend DU.

Cost of attendance is one of the most complicated aspects of the financial aid process, so please contact us if you have additional questions!

Up next week: How Your Financial Aid Package is Determined

Want to review past Financial Aid 101 emails? Check out the archives!

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