Paying for College

A college education usually isn’t free so you need to decide which college and which degree is worth your financial investment. To do this, you should research and understand the cost of attending college, the financial assistance that is available to help offset those costs, and the amount of student loan debt you may have to assume as many students who choose to pursue a degree must rely on student loans to some degree to pay for the cost of attending college.

Generally speaking though, college degrees are very worthwhile investments. Over a lifetime, people with a Bachelor’s Degree can earn over 65% more in income than those with only a high school diploma (Education Pays 2013, College Board).
Estimated Cost of Attending College Through Graduation

It’s not easy to estimate the overall cost of attending college when you consider food, housing, books, and other random expenses, in addition to tuition and fees. Luckily, the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid uses student data to estimate the overall cost of attending college each year. This estimate is called the Cost of Attendance (COA) and it is different for different types of students. For instance, COA is different for Undergraduates and Graduates, as well as for Residents of Texas and Non-Residents. Click here for breakdown of the 2016-2017 COA for Undergraduate students. Visit to find out the estimated COA for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

2017-2018 Undergraduate Fall and Spring
  Resident* Resident at Home Non-Resident
Tuition & Fees $10,210 $10,210 $36,962
Loan $64 $64 $64
Room & Board $10,368 $4,626 $10,368
Books& Supplies $1,054 $1,054 $1,054
Travel $2,282 $2,282 $2,820
Personal $3,474 $3,474 $3,474
Total $27,452 $21,710 $54,742

*Amounts are based on 15 credit hours per semester at Texas A&M University, College Station. Tuition and fees vary.

Estimated Cost of Attending College Through Graduation
Although COA is a great estimate of the average cost to attend college for one year, it’s important to estimate the cost of attending college through graduation. This will provide a much more accurate portrayal of the true cost to attend college, especially since your financial status and financial aid awards may change from year to year. The “Do I Have Enough Money?” section below provides more information regarding how to estimate the cost of attending college through graduation.
The Added Cost of Taking Longer to Graduate
Students who take longer than average to graduate will incur higher costs in more than one way. In addition to having the continued expense of paying for college, students will also be losing out on income they could be earning if they had graduated on time. For instance, if your expected starting salary was $50,000 and you took 5 years rather than 4 years to graduate, you would have lost out on $50,000 of income and would have paid for another year of school. Work with your Academic Advisor and the Academic Success Center to ensure that you graduate on time and avoid unnecessary costs and income loss!

As the cost of attending college continues to rise, it’s becoming even more important that students take full advantage of all of the financial options available to them to pay for college. Financial aid, scholarships, veterans’ education benefits, exemptions and waivers, fellowships and assistantships, and employment are just a few of the options available.
It’s not uncommon for students to take advantage of the options listed below to pay for college; in fact, it’s the norm. Each year, around 72% of students at Texas A&M receive some form of financial assistance through the awarding of scholarships, grants, loans, waivers, work-study, and on-campus student employment. These awards total approximately $734 million!  Don’t miss out on these funding opportunities; doing so could negatively impact your finances for years to come.


Financial Aid- Financial Aid is federal, state, and institutional grants, loans, and work study funds.

Grants – Free money which you are not required to repay. Typically requires financial need.

Loans – Self-help aid which must be repaid once you become enrolled less than half-time or graduate.

Work Study – Self-help aid which is used to pay for a portion of the wages earned by work study eligible student employees.

In some cases, financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply early by submitting your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on Do not forget to re-apply every year!

Information regarding how to apply for financial aid, how aid eligibility is determined, and other useful financial aid resources for undergraduate, graduate, professional, and international students can be found on

Need a loan to pay for educational expenses not covered by free financial aid? Review the Student Loans Money Tips page to learn about different types of loans, applying for loans, loan repayment, and more.
Scholarships are great sources of funding for higher education and are available through Texas A&M; local, regional, state, and national organizations; businesses; and more.
Scholarships may be awarded on the basis of:
  • Academic Merit
  • Financial Need
  • Talent
  • Membership in a particular group or organization
  • Leadership and participation
  • All or any combination of the above 
Texas A&M and other outside donors require separate scholarship applications. It’s in your best interest to submit as many scholarship applications as possible each year (not just for your first year at Texas A&M).
Non-resident students who are awarded a competitive academic scholarship of at least $4,000 may be eligible to pay tuition at the in-state rate by receiving a Non-Resident Tuition Waiver.  

Information regarding which scholarships are available, how to apply for scholarships, and other scholarship resources for  freshman, continuing, transfer, graduate, professional, and international students can be found on
Specific information regarding military scholarships from both Texas A&M and other donors can be found on
Veterans’ Education Benefits
The Veteran Services Office (VSO) in the Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid is available to help veterans and their dependents maximize their college funding at Texas A&M University. Thousands of veterans and dependents of veterans currently receive veterans’ education benefits at our institution.
Information regarding available federal and state veterans’ education benefits, how to apply for benefits, and more can be found on

Military affiliated non-resident students have the possibility of paying tuition at the in-state rate by receiving a non-resident tuition waiver, exemption, or payment.
Exemptions and Waivers
Exemptions and waivers are available which may exempt or waive either a portion or all of a student’s tuition and fees. Information regarding available exemptions and waivers can be found on or by contacting Student Business Services directly.
Fellowships and Assistantships
Fellowships are generally merit-based internal or external awards to support a student in a full-time course of study. Fellowships are available to Graduate Students through academic departments and colleges, and the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies. Students holding fellowships are not typically required to perform any services. Non-resident recipients of competitive fellowships of at least $1,000 may be eligible to pay tuition and fees at the in-state rate. Fellowship packages vary from $1,000 to over $30,000 and some include funds for health insurance and tuition and fees.
Assistantships are appointments for teaching, research, and non-teaching activities which are available to Graduate Students through academic departments and colleges, along with agencies and administrative offices. Most of these positions require service of 20 hours per week. Students serving in these roles may be eligible for insurance benefits and non-resident recipients may be eligible to pay tuition and fees at the in-state rate.
Students pursuing graduate and professional degrees may obtain information on Fellowships and Assistantships from the graduate advisor in their academic department or the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS). OGAPS also offers additional information regarding funding opportunities for Graduate Students on
The Student Employment Office (SEO) is designed to help students pursue their educational goals by providing employment resources and professional development opportunities. In addition, the SEO maintains an online job database, manages work study programs, and offers professional development workshops for students and supervisors.
Students seeking employment can log onto The SEO posts both on-campus and off-campus jobs on this website, which also offers listings for work study, graduate assistantships, and regular part-time positions. Positions posted on are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You may also seek employment on your own by visiting offices, departments, and other organizations of your choice. In either case, you are responsible for making interview arrangements, salary agreements, and scheduling working hours.
Information regarding the different types of employment, getting hired, online workshops, and in-person workshops can be found on
Once you have an award letter from Texas A&M, you can better determine if you will have enough free money to pay for college or if you’ll need to look into other options for paying for college. Your award letter will include the estimated COA, free money awarded (grants, scholarships, exemptions, waivers, fellowships, and assistantships), offered work study funds, and offered student loans.
To estimate the net cost of attending college over 4 years, fill out the below worksheet by doing the following:
  • Input the COA figure for Year 1 into the fields for “Year 1”, “Year 2”, “Year 3”, and “Year 4”. COA will change from year to year, but this is the best information available at this time.  
  • If you were awarded the Pell Grant for Year 1, input the Pell Grant award amount for Year 1 into the fields for “Year 1”, “Year 2”, “Year 3”, and “Year 4”. Pell Grant amounts change from year to year, but this is the best information available at this time.
  • Input the free money awarded for one year in the “Year 1” and “Year 2” field.
  • Input the renewable free money awarded for two years in the “Year 1” and “Year 2” fields.
  • Input the renewable free money awarded for three years in the “Year 1”, “Year 2”, and “Year 3” fields.
  • Input the renewable free money awarded for four years in the “Year 1”, “Year 2”, “Year 3”, and “Year 4” fields.
  • Subtract “Total” figure in each column from the “COA” figure in each column to determine the “Estimated Net Cost” in each column.
  • Sum the “Year 1”, “Year 2”, “Year 3”, and “Year 4” figures in each row to determine the “Total” figure for each row. 
ME Center College Net Cost Calculator
  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Total
Free Money Awarded          
Pell Grant          
Free Money for 1 Year          
Free Money for 2 Years          
Free Money for 3 Years          
Free Money for 4 Years          
Estimated Net Cost          

Below is an example of a person who received an award letter with the following information:
COA - $24,000
Pell Grant - $4,000
Texas Grant - $5,000 (4 year award)
SEOG - $500 (1 year award)
Regents Scholarship - $5,000 (4 year award)
Texas Public Education Grant - $2,000 (1 year award)
ME Center College Net Cost Calculator
  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Total
COA $24,000 $24,000 $24,000 $24,000 $96,000
Free Money
Pell Grant $4,000 $4,000 $4,000 $4,000 $16,000
Free Money for 1 Year $2,500       $2,500
Free Money for 2 Years         $0
Free Money for 3 Years         $0
Free Money for 4 Years $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $40,000
Total $16,500 $14,000 $14,000 $14,000 $58,500
Estimated Net Cost $7,500 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $37,500

These figures are only broad estimates and will not reflect the actual net cost you ultimately incur.

The spreadsheet above can be used though to compare award letters from different schools and get a general sense as to which schools you feel that you can afford to attend. You can apply for scholarships and grants each year as a continuing student, and this may ultimately reduce your net cost. Student loans, student employment, and family support are options you may need to utilize in order to afford the net cost of attending college.  
Student loans are used by many students to pay for the net cost of attending college, but loans should only be used after all free college funding options have been exhausted.
Texas A&M Debt vs. National Average
  Texas A&M Nation (2014)
Average Debt $23,547* $28,950**
% of Students With Debt 44%* 69%**

*Average student loan debt of Texas A&M University (College Station) Undergraduates who graduated in 2014-2015. Federal Subsidized, Federal Unsubsidized, Federal Perkins, and Alternative Student Loans received while attending Texas A&M are included in this figure.
**The Institute for College Access & Success
Students who borrow student loan funds while in college and fail to repay their student loans are considered to be in default. Default can create many issues for student borrowers, including dramatically harming their credit scores. Failing to graduate from college, and then becoming unemployed or underemployed, is one of the leading causes for borrowers to go into default.
Comparison of FY 2014 Cohort Default Rates for Texas A&M, the state of Texas, and the nation.
The Cohort Default Rate includes all Federal Subsidized and/or Federal Unsubsidized Loan borrowers who entered student loan repayment in FY 2014 but defaulted on their loans within the following three years.  
  Texas A&M State Nation
FY 2014 Cohort Default Rate 2.3%* 10.4%* 11.5%*

*U.S. Department of Education

For more information on student loans, go to the Student Loans page.
Federal Student Aid – Federal Student Aid, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation. This site provides information on preparing for college, types of aid, who gets aid, the FAFSA, and repaying your loans.

FastWeb – “FastWeb is the Internet's leading scholarship search service, helping students make the decisions that shape their lives: choosing a college, paying for college, and finding jobs and internships. And it's all free.” – FastWeb

Bachelor's Degree Can Earn 65 Percent More in Income