Sample Financial Aid Award Letter. Courtesy [source].


Cost of Attendance (COA)

The total amount (not including grants and scholarships) that it will cost you to go to school during the 2019–20 school year. COA includes tuition and fees; housing and meals; and allowances for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care. It also includes miscellaneous and personal expenses, such as an allowance for the rental or purchase of a personal computer; costs related to a disability; and reasonable costs for eligible study­ abroad programs. For students attending less than half­time, the COA includes tuition and fees; an allowance for books, supplies, and transportation; and dependent care expenses.

Total Grants and Scholarships

Student aid funds that do not have to be repaid. Grants are often need ­based, while scholarships are usually merit ­based. Occasionally you might have to pay back part or all of a grant if, for example, you withdraw from school before finishing a semester.

Net Costs

An estimate of the actual costs that you or your family will need to pay during the 2019–20 school year to cover education expenses at a particular school. Net costs are determined by taking the institution's cost of attendance and subtracting your grants and scholarships.

Work Study

A federal student aid program that provides part­ time employment while you are enrolled in school to help pay your education expenses.


Borrowed money that must be repaid with interest. Loans from the federal government typically have a lower interest rate than loans from private lenders. Federal loans, listed from most advantageous to least advantageous, are called Federal Perkins Loans, Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and Direct PLUS Loans. You can find more information about federal loans at StudentAid.gov.

Family Contribution
(also referred to as Expected Family Contribution)

A number used by a school to calculate how much financial aid you are eligible to receive, if any. It’s based on the financial information you provided in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. The family contribution is reported to you on your Student Aid Report, also known as the SAR.

Graduation Rate

The graduation rate after 150% of normal program completion time has elapsed. For schools that award predominately bachelor’s (four year) degrees, this is after six years, and for students seeking an associate’s (two­ year) degree, this is after three years. For students seeking a certificate, the length of time depends on the certificate sought, for example, for a one­ year certificate, after 18 months. These rates are only for full ­time students enrolled for the first time.

Repayment Rate

The share of students who have repaid at least $1 of the principal balance on their federal loans within 3 years of leaving school.

Median Borrowing

The median federal debt of undergraduate borrowers who completed. This figure includes only federal loans; it excludes private student loans and parent PLUS loans.