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Articles / Paying for College / Total Cost of Attendance Factored into FinAid Award?

Total Cost of Attendance Factored into FinAid Award?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Sept. 27, 2013

Question: Is the indirect cost of attendance (room/board/transportation, etc.) supposed to be a stipend to the student?

“The Dean” can’t tell exactly what you’re asking. But what I think that you MAY want to know is whether or not the full cost of attendance (room, board, and even books, travel, etc.) is factored into financial aid awards.

And if that’s your question, then the answer is YES. Financial aid officials consider not only tuition but also the TOTAL price of a year of college (except maybe poker and pizza money 😉 ) when computing how much financial aid a student should receive.

BUT (and it’s a BIG one), colleges don’t necessarily meet full need. That is, the financial aid folks may say something like, “We see she needs $30,000 in aid to enroll, but we can only afford $20,000.” Similarly, some colleges may “give” you all the money that you are supposed to receive, but part of your financial aid “package” comes in the form of loans, which must be paid back. So it doesn’t really feel as if you’re getting all the aid required since you’ll be in debt and must repay it later on.

If you believe that the college you attend has not fairly assessed expenses such as food and books when calculating your financial aid award, you can certainly appeal to aid officers to increase your financial assistance. However, what you expect to receive in a perfect world may not be what you end up with in this one.

Hint: When appealing a financial aid award, always act appreciative for whatever you’ve been offered so far rather than entitled to more (but ask for more anyway).

Good luck!


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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