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Financial Aid 101

Understanding Your Cost of Attendance

University of Denver Financial Aid

The next few emails in our series will be helpful to have on hand as you begin comparing financial aid 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 aid offers: 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 financial aid offer from the University of Denver. Your cost of attendance doesn't only include tuition; it also takes your basic living expenses into account.

Why is this listed on my financial aid offer?
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 aid offer, 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 bills, 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 might have the following cost of attendance for the 2021-22 school year (costs for the 2022-23 academic year will be announced in November):

Direct Costs: Tuition $53,640
Fees 1,179
Housing and Meals 14,674
  Subtotal $69,493
Indirect Costs: Books 1,000
Transportation Expenses 1,536
Personal Expenses 1,485
Average Loan Fees 76
  Cost of Attendance  $73,590

Let's look at each line item in more 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 (which is considered full time).
  • Housing and Meals: DU calculates this figure by using the weighted average of a double-occupancy room on campus and the 125-block meal plan. (Want to know specific rates? Visit the Housing & Residential Education website.)
  • Books: This is an estimate of the 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 or 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. Money actually spent on these types of items will vary from student to student. These items will not appear on your DU bill.
  • Average Loan Fees: There is an origination fee of 1.057% for Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized student loans, which is taken out of the loan before funds are sent to DU. The $76 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 market research and the recommended guidelines published by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Most figures change slightly every year.

One final note...
When comparing financial aid offers 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 offered. We'll address how to compare offers and determine your unmet cost to attend DU in a future Financial Aid 101 email.

That's it for this week! Want to review past Financial Aid 101 emails? Check out the archives.

Up next week: How Your Financial Aid Offer is Determined


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or call us at (303) 871-4020

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