Fin Aid & Merit Discussion for class of '27 Undergrad/'25 Grad

Hi everyone, we can talk here about money if we want to continue.

This can be a place to discuss, and then after a while, when more students have offers, I can do a separate thread for awards, the way @Baribassmom did last year. Since we might want to keep those anonymous, I’ll wait until we have more kids with offers. I found that thread to be very helpful in knowing what to expect, and also what results people had with appeals.


What do you consider COA?

I’ve seen some people including everything from tuition to required health insurance, personal expenses, and plane tickets to visit home. Others consider it to be tuition, room, board and fees. I was talking with a friend the other night whose kid goes to C0lumbia Chicago, and she was confused about me thinking it cost over 50K a year. She considered the cost to be 18K after their scholarship. She didn’t think about all those other things as part of it.

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Colleges publish the Cost of Attendance

i think most use that figure. However, the reality of life is and it’s family dependent, but I estimate it’s easy to spend $3-5K more than the published COA - eating out, ubers, small trips, spring break trips, off campus medical, etc.

Here’s an example of a COA - if you google school name + cost of attendance, you’ll eventually get to it. Don’t forget, at most schools - annual inflation.

Cost to Attend - Financial Aid and Scholarships | University of South Carolina

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Thank you, that’s a nice clear one. I’m using those categories to calculate my own COAs, because some things aren’t apples to apples. For example, Loyola includes required health insurance at $1300/semester (not month), which we may be able to cover ourselves.

That list comes up with numbers that don’t make sense to me. Like over $1200/month for “personal” seems huge, if that’s meant to include entertainment, pizzas, stuff like that, but not include basic eating and housing. My kid is not a big spender and doesn’t care much about what he eats. His money would be spent on seeing live music.

For my own calculations, I’m counting transportation as flying there and back three times per year, but not much local travel $. He’s going to have a bike and bus pass. :slight_smile: That’s his preference.

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All those figures obviously vary by kid. Kids eat out because they tired of the school food. Kids need to go to the doctor, because the school’s medical doesn’t cut it - or get counseling, or tutoring or cover charges or concerts or ubers.

Every kid will be different…of course. Mine might be on the higher end. The only things fixed will be the tuition, room and board, etc. and other mandatory fees. We don’t pay for health insurance - we use my plan.

Thank you for those examples. It’s really helpful to think about what might come up. I’ve got my fingers crossed that my husband’s insurance plan will be accepted and nothing more will be required. We’re expecting that all those ubers and eating out are coming from S’s own income. We’ll be providing the basics to get around and eat at school, although that is a consideration based on which he school he goes to, because some don’t really offer the opportunity to gig in the local music scene. At Loyola, he’ll be able to do that. We’ve talked with multiple students who say it is possible. At UNT, I would guess not.

I think of cost of attendance in 2 categories as mentioned above. Fixed costs would include tuition, room and board, fees, required program related costs (books, supplies, instrument repairs). Variable costs would be travel expenses to and from school, personal expenses, medical insurance. If your child is on your medical/dental plan, our experience is that you provide insurance information and you do not pay the school/program insurance premium. I think this is true for most programs, but also make sure there are medical providers available to your kid in their new geographical area.
Remember too, there are costs that drop off when your kid is no longer at home. The household grocery bill will decrease significantly. The cost of weekly lessons goes away. If your kid will be away without a car, you can usually decrease your car insurance rate.
And some ideas to minimize costs in general. We use an airline linked credit card for all travel expenses. Generally after 3 flights, one is “free”. Our kid pays his own personal expenses (meals out, entertainment, clothes, ground transportation, etc) by his choice. He is the opposite of frivolous, but I think this strategy really helps to keep costs down. And check with the school, many offer free or low cost student tickets to concerts, museums, etc.
It’s overwhelming to look at a huge COA number…but there are many ways to shave that number down.


At UNT a lot of kids gig in various capacities. My son has had gigs on both cello and voice. Lots of students have “church jobs”—get paid to sing in a church choir or play for services. It may vary by instrument.

We told all our kids that we would pay for needs (you need toothpaste) and they paid for wants (you want pizza with friends). The ones that had cars at school paid their own gas (but we would always fill up the tank when we were in town). Various other exceptions as well (you had a rough day/great accomplishment go buy ice cream on us). As they did better with jobs and internships they tended to pay for more of their own expenses.

We looked at school published cost of attendance and adjusted based on our own situation. Less travel for the local school, more for the distant one, etc.

Those Loyola figures aren’t per month for health insurance are they? Maybe per semester?


Tuition, fees, room, board are the always billable costs (unless your kid commutes…then room and board would not be billed by the college). If you don’t or can’t carry your kid on your health insurance, that is also a billable cost. Billable costs are those billed by the college.

Then there is discretionary spending money.

And books. And transportation.

In addition, for musicians, you need to keep in mind costs for anything instrument related, clothing, music, etc. Those are not billable costs.

So to me the COA is all billable costs (tuition, fees, room, board, health insurance) plus discretionary spending and those added costs for musicians.

@tsbna44 and I don’t agree on this. In our experience, our kids actually had a lot of eat out options that could be paid for with dining points. No extra charge.

Ubers? Small spring break trips? If our kids couldn’t work enough to pay for these things…they just couldn’t go. Full stop.

Our kids also were able to save a LOT of money on books, and other supplies. Never spent what the school published.

So…it IS possible for kids to learn to live well within their means…and as musicians, believe me…this is a life skill!


That is a HUGE amount. Huge.

Oops, yes per semester!

I’m so happy to hear that about UNT. That’s great.

Yeah, I agree. They included 3700 per semester for personal expenses. Maybe I’m reading it wrong. That’s definitely a possibility.

If books and transportation are included as “personal expenses”, I can see $3700 a semester. But if this is things like clothing, pizza, and an occasional concert or something…that seems high.

I think I read it wrong and that’s for the year, not semester. Whew. I’m still hoping for cheaper in reality, given all the free events, flexible dining, etc. I can only hope. We’ll see. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’ve seriously got my fingers crossed for Loyola FA. It’s the most expensive of his acceptances, but also a good scholarship, and the NPC shows a lot of aid. Even if we got less than that estimate it would make it really doable.

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My musician kid worked. He earned plenty of money for his discretionary spending. He was an usher for a major symphony orchestra, and in addition to being paid well, he was able to see 1/2 of every concert free. Since he typically ushered more than once for each concert program, he usually saw them all. He worked about 10-12 hours a week, and never asked us for a nickel of spending money…ever.

In grad school, he had paid gigs just about every weekend. And they paid well. Again…never asked us for a dime of spending money for anything.

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I noted it’s family dependent - but I live it.

Just paid $900 for the emergency room - so i’m likely “over” living it. I think $3-5K is fair - and wasn’t talking about earning $$ to defray - just an actual expense.

But as I noted it’s family dependent. If no one has money, they might eat every meal on campus. Not every school has dining $$ that nearby restaurants take - and some do other things.

My daughter ubers to the beach - for relaxation. Does every kid need to - no. But it helps her.

Every kid is different - there’s loads of ways to spend additional money.

But it depends on the kid and what the family allows.

Oh -yes- books have been a surprising save - both kids. I think they spend in a semester what I used to spend on one.


@BeverlyWest make sure you check what your health insurance from home covers. Some kids have the school insurance because their home plan doesn’t cover well at the college location.

Another thing to vet before you accept an offer.


And lastly…be clear on what you will and won’t fund. Our kids knew up front that their discretionary spending costs were not going to be covered by us. And they weren’t.

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