PSU Helping Students Understand the Cost of Attendance
Author: Melissa Trifiletti, Phillip Rodgers, & James Ofsink
Posted: March 6, 2013

A University's official cost of attendance is a big factor in determining how much aid a student could receive.  Every university calculates an official budget that details the average cost for a student to attend the institution for a full academic year. This amount is called the cost of attendance, or the COA. This official figure is important because the university subtracts your Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, from the COA to calculate financial need.

What's Included in the COA

Congress has dictated the general formula for figuring the COA. For just about all students, it usually includes tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses. PSU differentiate costs for state residents vs. nonresidents.

The COA and Living Arrangements

Universities commonly develop multiple undergraduate student COAs, which vary according to student living arrangements (on-campus, off-campus, and at home). The budgets for students living at home with their parents are almost always lower than for students living on campus or off campus in an apartment in the community.

Below is the 2012/2013 academic year’s cost of attendance for PSU:

UG = Undergraduate or Post-baccalaureate Res = In-state tuition rate ("resident")
GR = Graduate (Master's/PhD) Nonres = Out of state tuition rate
COA UG/Res UG/Nonres
Tuition/fees  $6,729 $19,269
Books & supplies $2,028 $2,028
Room & board* $11,019 $11,019
Transportation $990 $1,350
Misc. Personal $2,250 $2,250
TOTAL $23,016 $35,916

Tying the COA to Actual Costs

A university's official COA is an important factor in paying for college, but it doesn't tell the whole story. The bottom line is net price—the total out-of-pocket cost that a student actually pays. Net price includes the amount PSU expects a student to contribute to their education (think EFC), any financial need that the university is not able to cover (unmet need), and any financial aid awarded in the form of loans or work-study earnings. 

Helping Incoming Students Understand PSU’s COA

To help our incoming undergraduate students understand the COA, PSU created a personalized financial aid award guide (see image below). The guide will be mailed to the student’s home and admissions counselors will be calling students to walk through their award guide and answer questions. The personalized guide will clearly show the student’s COA minus any Gift Aid (scholarships/grants) received which then shows their Annual Net Cost amount. The guide will also provide all the available options to pay for or finance their annual net cost.  

Information for this article is from