How Underestimating Cost of Attendance Hurts Students

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  According to New America researchers, there’s a correlation between colleges underestimating the cost of attendance for students and how many students end up graduating. Cost of attendance at a university might be listed by a college as just tuition and room/board, but it also includes “fees, books and supplies, transportation and personal expenses.” It’s really everything you’ll spend money on for the next four or so years. The NACAC Admitted Blog explored what cost of attendance actually means for students, and the impacts of not going in with eyes open to potential costs or fees.

An admissions counselor interviewed by New America explained how if students can’t afford basic needs while they’re in school, “One of the ways low-income students cope with book costs is by not buying them, but when you don’t buy the book, you fall behind in the class...And when you fall behind in the class, then you drop the class.”

If students don’t do well in their classes, they might hit an even bigger hurdle-- loss of financial aid. Scholarships often have minimum required GPA’s to stay eligible, and the jobs that students take to counteract those extra costs might negatively affect their GPA.

The Admitted Blog explains that, “Since the early ‘70s, colleges have been required by the federal government to provide cost of living estimates — a key tool that helps determine how financial aid is distributed. But the methods schools use to develop those figures vary widely from institution to institution.”

Recent data shows that roughly one-third of US colleges underestimate their costs by more than $3,000. Meanwhile, other schools overstate their costs, putting students at risk for over-borrowing.” Extra expenses that students should consider include food outside the meal plan, activities fees, travel, vehicle maintenance and personal items.

How can you avoid incurring extra and unexpected expenses? Talk to current students, discuss how each school calculates estimated cost of attendance with your admissions counselor, and think about practical daily financial needs. The cost of attendance for most schools is already quite high, but having the tools and information to plan ahead will make a huge difference later on.

Read the whole article here.