More Than Tuition

More Than Tuition

For today’s students, the cost of college includes much more than tuition. Cost of Attendance (COA) measures the total education and living expenses for a student at a particular college or university, making it the key estimate of how much the student must budget for an academic year. However, the difficulty in creating these estimates often means that students and institutions are unable to accurately predict their expenses, leading some students to borrow more than they might need while still others are unable to pay for basic expenses like housing and food.

To fully explore COA’s promise and pitfalls, we’ve put together a series of blog posts addressing some of its key questions and concerns. These posts culminated in a panel discussion held at New America on May 25, 2016. You can watch a recording of the event here.

In the first part of our series, we explain in more detail what COA is and how it’s calculated. We then look at the legislative history of COA and explore how it came to be what it is today. We take a deeper look at today’s students, showing how COA oftentimes does not meet their needs. We then use institution-reported COA estimates to look for anomalies and trends in COA over time and across geographic areas. Next, using current research on behavioral economics and financial literacy, we explore ways to better help students make informed decisions about financial aid and borrowing loans. We also look at how institutions can use loan limits to reduce the amount students borrow, and the impacts this might have on student attainment and retention. Finally, we offer recommendations for consideration in rethinking COA specifically, as well as a broader conversation of the ways in which building a more robust social safety net could alleviate the complexities institutions face when developing COA.

We encourage you to participate in the conversation on Twitter by using #MoreThanTuition.

More Than Tuition Articles

What is Cost of Attendance?

A Legislative History: Why is Cost of Attendance So Complicated?

Today’s Students and Institutional Incentives for Setting Yearly Budgets

High Uncertainty and Complicated Incentives

Trends in Cost Estimates Over Time

How to Improve Cost of Attendance

Student Financial Literacy

Experimenting with Loan Limits

Higher Education and the Social Safety Net