Still thinking of continuing your education online or virtually? Something to think about is your Cost of Attendance (COA) and whether or not it has changed for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. You may recall a previous blog called Net Cost: Beyond the Sticker Price in Schools, where we covered the basics of COA. However, things may have changed a bit since you filed your FAFSA. Three things to review are the following:
Tuition: One of the biggest costs, by far, to attend college or training is tuition. This is one thing to be watching in the up-coming weeks. Is your institution going to change their tuition price structures for online only courses? Is it going to be different than your traditional resident or non-resident rates? Some institutions have already reduced or had no tuition rate increases for 2020-2021.
Fees: Pre-COVID-19, you could expect to see quite a few fees, which are regulated by the institution, various academic departments, and student groups. Fees are also collected for health centers, athletics, technology, labs, and other services. However, if you’re planning on studying online, and never step foot on campus, those fees may be cancelled. Before the pandemic, I would say without a doubt that you would have to pay them. However, we are in uncharted territory, and the institution you are planning to study at, or are currently enrolled at, may treat the 2020-2021 academic year a little differently. They may administer more technology fees associated with distance learning compared to in person user fees. On the flip side, they may drop some fees as you may not be utilizing that service.
Housing Plans: After selecting your institutions on your FAFSA, they ask you about your housing plans: on campus, off campus, or with parent. How you answer that question could impact your financial aid award. Institutions know that if you live on campus (dorms or residence halls) or off campus, you will have an added cost for housing and living expenses. Dorm rates are generally posted on the college website and your school’s financial aid office uses the local housing market to determine the cost for living off campus. Those rates are then included into the COA. If you are living at home and marked “with parents” on your FAFSA housing plans, your financial aid eligibility may be altered by your financial aid office because they will assume your cost of living is zero. If your parents plan to charge you rent, or if you will feel like helping out financially for groceries, it’s a good idea to mark “off-campus” on your FAFSA housing plans.
If you need any assistance with navigating the college process and/or developing a plan for your postsecondary endeavors, contact the ACPE Success Center for free assistance!