Understanding costs

Understanding the cost of college might seem confusing.

You may hear about “sticker” price, “net” price and cost of attendance. Here is some helpful information to help you understand the difference. Because of financial and institutional aid as well as scholarships, most students do not pay the “sticker” price of attendance and in fact, pay much less. It is important to consider all of the direct and indirect costs associated with each year you’re enrolled. Understanding your total cost is why applying for financial aid is so important.

What is sticker price?

The sticker price, also known as the “published” or “list” price, is the full, undiscounted cost of attending a college or university.

It includes all direct expenses associated with attending the institution, such as tuition and fees, room and board, and other mandatory costs like textbooks and supplies.

The sticker price is the amount that colleges and universities advertise in their promotional materials and on their websites. It represents the total cost before any financial aid or scholarships are factored in.

Many students and families are initially deterred by the high sticker price of some colleges, but it’s essential to remember that very few students actually pay the full sticker price.

What is Net Price?

The net price is the actual cost that a student or their family will pay for college after accounting for scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid.

It takes into consideration any need-based financial aid, merit scholarships, grants, or other forms of assistance that reduce the overall cost of attendance.

The net price is a more realistic representation of what a student will pay for college, as it factors in the financial aid package offered by the institution and may vary from one student to another based on their individual financial circumstances. The net price can be significantly lower than the sticker price, making college more affordable for many students.

The sticker price is the initial, published price of the cost of attending a college before any financial aid is considered, while the net price is the actual cost a student will pay after taking into account scholarships and financial aid. It's crucial for students and their families to focus on the net price when evaluating the affordability of a college or university, as it provides a more accurate picture of the out-of-pocket expenses.

The Estimated Cost of Attendance (COA).

The estimated cost of attendance lists the average living and student expenses you are likely to incur during the academic year (fall and spring semesters). The dollar amounts are calculated by surveying current Arizona students and using other resources including the Consumer Price Index.

Calculating costs

As you research and compare costs, make sure that you are looking at the cost for a full year at each school and not just one semester. In addition to tuition and fees, you will need to consider housing, food, transportation, books, supplies and other items. The universities offer helpful cost of attendance calculators to help you learn the estimated cost.

The federal government requires each school to develop its own standard allowances for living expenses (which includes books and supplies, room, board, transportation, and personal expenses) as a means to award financial aid in a consistent manner for all students.

The cost of attendance typically varies significantly from what you will pay when you factor in financial aid, scholarships, residency and housing choices and more.

Your total cost of attendance includes:

Tuition $
Fees $
Housing and food $
Books, course materials, supplies and equipment $
Transportation $
Personal $
Scroll to Top
Skip to content