COA Monograph: Summary of Changes for Seventh Edition

A new edition of NASFAA's Monograph #24, "Developing the Cost of Attendance," has been posted. The seventh edition of this practical guide to constructing the student budget half of need analysis was not prompted by any changes to law or Department of Education (ED) guidance, but rather reflects the profession's continuing desire to self-regulate one of the most fundamental financial aid functions: determining how much it costs to attend an institution so that the aid administrator can build an equitable and realistic aid package.

Concerned by public confusion over the wide range of values given to certain institutionally-set cost of attendance (COA) components, NASFAA's Board of Directors appointed a working group of practicing aid administrators to examine how those components are determined, consider whether more standardization would be desirable, and recommend good practices.

As a result of the group's deliberations and the Board's consideration of their recommendations, the monograph was revised to clarify and strengthen good practices, provide additional guidance on the elements included in certain COA components to promote more consistency among schools, develop data-driven methodologies to enhance accuracy, and document institutional procedures. The revisions emphasize transparency and sufficient detail in consumer information to facilitate comparisons of costs across schools and touch on improved use categories to address differences in student populations. The revisions also encourage detailed breakdowns of budget elements in award letters and other school materials to enable better understanding by students and their families of the school's expectations underlying student budgets, thereby helping students manage their resources and expenses.

Specifically, this edition:

  • Gives more details about, and sources of data for, the transportation allowance and miscellaneous personal expenses.
  • Encourages schools to separate elements of composite components into individual allowances, and provide clear detail about the items included in each element; for example:
    • Room costs should be separated from board costs.
    • Supplies might need to be separated from books.
    • Miscellaneous expenses should be detailed so that students know what items are included and, therefore, are permissible expenditures.
  • Describes how to improve, and elicit better response rates to, surveys used by the school to establish cost parameters by:
    • Reflecting the same detail used in constructing a given COA component.
    • Timing the survey to coincide with the subject expenditures.
    • Using shorter, better-targeted surveys.
  • Explains how well-documented institutional policies and procedures ensure adequate cycles of updating COA components, and provide consistency over time.


Publication Date: 2/1/2018

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