When the University announced the decreased average cost of attendance, students sought transparency about the process by which the University determines this number, unsure of how the changes might affect their financial aid package.
The University must strike a balance when projecting this estimated cost, said Eric Johnson, assistant director of policy and communications for The Office of Scholarships and Student Aid. If the University overshoots the cost, students might take out more loans than necessary, increasing their student debt. If the University underestimates the cost, students may not receive sufficient aid to finance their attendance. Johnson said UNC has consistently overestimated the cost of attendance.
At UNC, the average cost of attendance is $23,734 and $50,634 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively. In addition to the set cost of tuition and fees, the estimate for food considers the price of the unlimited meal plan, and the housing costs are matched to the most common on-campus option. Both of these tend to be overestimates, Johnson said.
For textbooks, the University takes a sampling of the reported costs from students across departments. Miscellaneous and personal costs are calculated by checking the price of common items, such as toothpaste and laundry detergent, across a nine-month budget. Currently, the office conducts a survey of indirect expenses every three years and adjusts for inflation each year.
Travel costs are estimated around 10 miles per day for in-state students, and four flights per year at the nationwide average of a domestic flight to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport for out-of-state students.