Calculating College Costs


We at the Coalition believe in the value of a college education: Research shows that students with a four-year bachelor’s degree earn an average of $1.3 million more than those with only a high school diploma. But, we also realize that the cost to attend college can seem very high.

So, let’s talk about calculating the cost of your college education.

First, what is the cost of attendance? The total cost to attend a college includes tuition and fees; room and board; books and supplies; and other living expenses, including travel and personal expenses. (You’ll likely find this figure under Financial Aid on a college’s website.) This is the cost per year for you to attend college — but it’s not necessarily the price you’ll pay.

And, what is the price you’ll pay? Well, that depends on your financial need — and how much you receive in financial aid.

Financial aid is money given to you or loaned to you to help you pay for college expenses. Scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study are the four most common types of financial aid, and they are provided by the federal government, states, colleges and universities, and/or private organizations.

As you research colleges and build your list, take some time to review the financial aid section of a college’s website. Not only will you learn more about the types of financial aid, but you’ll also find out how many students at that college receive aid. Be sure to look for the following information:

  • The average amount in scholarships and grants received by students
  • The average amount in loans or self-help financing used by students
  • The percentage of students receiving each of these sources of aid and financing

In addition, you’ll have access to a Net Price Calculator (sometimes called a Financial Aid Calculator), which helps you figure out the cost of your college education, and if you’ll need financial aid. This useful, online tool is available on every college and university website, and is based on the financial information you provide — the more accurate the information, the more accurate the estimate!

We also encourage you to explore the following helpful resources:

Remember: All 140+ Coalition schools are committed to providing responsible student financial aid, so they are an affordable choice for students like you!

Additional Resources
Take advantage of all that we have to offer! With MyCoalition, you can store important high school documents and files in your digital Locker, ask for input from trusted family and friends, and even apply to schools with one easy-to-use application.

While you’re there, don’t forget to review our handy financial aid glossary, located in the MyCoalition Counselor section. And be sure to check out these helpful articles over at BigFuture by the College Board:

Read about understanding college costs

Learn why you should focus on net price not sticker price



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