Financial Aid

Estimated Cost of Attendance

The estimated cost of attendance seems higher than I expected. Is this how much the University of Cincinnati costs?

Before you question the affordability of a University of Cincinnati education, understand that the cost of attendance (or COA) is the average cost to attend for a given academic year when covering ALL college costs.

The breakdown of COA on your award offer is not a projection of your bill.

COA goes beyond billable items like tuition and room and board to also include key costs like books but also expenses you already likely account for in your financial budget such as clothes, laundry, transportation, and toiletries. We often say that cost of attendance is everything from tuition through toothpaste.

Why a COA

When creating rules around federal financial aid, Congress set an upper limit on how much a student should be able to receive in aid in order to meet basic college costs. While tuition and other billed costs are generally understood, the non-billed personal costs are estimated based on surveys of our students or available consumer information.

Each student is then assigned a COA budget based on similar students in clusters such as dependent students or students on a branch campus. This COA budget is for one academic year (usually fall and spring) and includes categories such as tuition, program fees (charged at UC based on major or college), room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and personal expenses. UC and other colleges adjust the COA annually to reflect changes to these costs.

While this upper limit in aid eligibility is required, few students reach this limit unless they take out a Federal Parent PLUS Loan or a non-federal alternative loan.

Overall, the COA is less about your exact costs and more the budget limit assigned to you for maximum financial aid eligibility, and a budget you can use toward personal financial planning.

Your COA May Be Different

UC creates several COA budgets that reflect differences in tuition (in-state, metro, and out-of-state rates), living costs (on-campus, off-campus, or at home) and averages for books, transportation and personal expenses.

Your actual cost to attend might be more or less than your assigned COA budget depending on your academic program, participation in campus activities, and travel expenses. As well, you know that no two students are likely to spend the same amount on clothing, dining out, and other entertainment. Students should develop their own financial plan.

Use the COA to estimate what specific or overall expenses could be. But don't become concerned that this is the billed amount you will be expected to pay to attend UC.

Billable Costs

While the Cost of Attendance includes many costs of attending college, the university will only bill the student, on a term-by-term basis, tuition costs and on-campus housing, if living on-campus. Limited fees such as health insurance, when not waived, and eBooks that are part of a course may also be included.

Cost of Attendance tuition amounts detailed on your award offer is based on anticipated or known costs at the time of the award. This display is for planning purposes and is not a substitute for your term bill. All costs are subject to change.

Tuition rates for the new academic year are generally set by the Board of Trustees each spring in April or May. 

Incoming undergraduate, degree-seeking students will fall under the Cincinnati Tuition Guarantee with a tuition rate that will follow them through 4 or 5 years (depending on if they are in a co-op program). Graduate and Law students do not have a tuition guarantee. 

Rates, when set by the Board, will be updated online at

Students are encouraged to anticipate their costs using charts of key billable charges. Students are billed prior to each term, and charges will be based on your enrollment and fees related to the term.

Net Cost

Estimated remaining costs on your award offer is a calculation of COA minus aid offered. It can help in financial planning.

But families really want to determine what their net cost will be. To do so, you want to determine the target costs you are seeking to cover. Once you establish that, you can get your net costs (also known as total out-of-pocket cost) by subtracting the available financial aid. This amount becomes your net cost for meeting with personal resources, income, or additional financial aid such as Federal Parent PLUS Loans.

Financial plans for some students and families will focus on accounting for all possible expenses while other students will focus primarily on billed UC costs (tuition, fees, and room and board, if living on campus). Many students will consider a combination of tuition costs billed by UC, book expenses, and room and board costs (either billed by UC or based on your off-campus lease).

Students should prepare a personal budget and work to reduce expenses whenever possible. College can be expensive. Financial aid assists in meeting these costs but rarely covers all expenses.

It is incumbent on all students to seek ways to make their educational dollars stretch the furthest.

Enrollment Services can assist you with financial literacy information.

Ultimately, your personally-determined net cost will be more a good indication of your needed finances in the upcoming year.