Grad School Resource Center

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Financial Resources

What Are Net Price and Cost of Attendance?

November 2021

Net price and cost of attendance (COA) are two figures you need to pay close attention to when applying to grad school. While these are two separate metrics, both are important to ascertain when searching for the right program that will also fit into your financial budget.

Defining Net Price

Net price is what you’ll spend to complete a graduate program after you subtract scholarships, grants and any financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. That amount can be paid through savings, salary or private student loans.

Defining COA

COA is an official term from Title 20 in the U.S. Code. It’s the sum of all expenses associated with attending grad school, including tuition, room, board, fees, books, supplies, equipment needed, transportation expenses and any out-of-pocket personal expenses you may accrue. Any expense related to attending school that is above and beyond your normal, everyday expenses is part of the cost of attendance.

If you’re fortunate enough to have family helping you financially with your education costs, this would be subtracted from the cost of attendance when determining what kind of financial aid and student loans you’d qualify for. Expected Family Contributions (EFC) may be more likely for undergrad students, but if it’s something you’re receiving for grad school, it should be included in your calculations.

Why are net price and COA so important?

Net price and COA will significantly impact your financial health during the pursuit of your graduate degree and need to be weighed seriously. You may have determined that going to grad school is worth it for your career and salary, but part of that determination is in the “going” part, not just the “receiving the degree” part.

Education is one the biggest investments you’ll make, similar to purchasing a home. Just as you would evaluate all the costs and financial consequences of buying a home, properly evaluating the costs of going to grad school and how to pay for it is an important step in the decision-making process.

Help calculating the costs

Once you’ve created a personalized profile on the GradSchoolMatch platform, you’ll have access to a Loan Calculator to assist with predicting the costs of different programs. There are also resources that will help you calculate your net price and COA on both university and government sites.

Once you determine your financial responsibility for grad school, add that to the list of factors you consider when choosing a program that fits your career, education and financial goals.

Related Resources

How to Find Scholarships, Grants and Other Free Money

Before you start hunting for private loans, look for financial assistance opportunities that you won’t have to pay back.

Debt-to-Income Ratio and Grad School

Based on the salary you currently make or expect to make with your new graduate degree, how much debt you should accrue in the form of school loans.