Student Budget/Cost of Attendance

The Cost of Attendance (COA, student budget) includes direct costs – tuition and fees – as well as an estimate of indirect costs – rent, food, and personal expenses. If you are borrowing student loans (federal or private), the COA (minus other aid) determines that maximum amount you can borrow.

The Cost of Attendance is useful both to students who are on financial aid and those who are not, but are new to Boston or adjusting to a student lifestyle. Living in Boston is expensive, so it is important to understand what to expect.

Cost of Degree Programs

This tool is designed to give you information on the total Cost of Degree (total tuition requirement) and Cost of Attendance (estimated living expenses + tuition and fees). At the end of the survey, you can save your results.

Rent & Utilities: $1,668 (living with one roommate)
Food: $466
Personal: $418 (clothing, toiletries, entertainment, etc.)
Transportation: $90
Total:  $2,642

Please note that the COA is based on your official start date (first day of classes) — relocation costs as well as costs incurred during Orientation cannot be included. If you are in a multi-year master’s program, the summer months will not be included unless you are enrolled in at least 7.5 credits.

You can also use the Student Budgeting Tool to enter your specific information.

You can lower your monthly rent by living with more roommates, but most students report spending over $1000 in this category (even with multiple roommates). Students should note that living in Harvard Housing or Shattuck may cost more than the budgeted amount. The Office of Financial Aid can adjust a student’s budget in some cases (see: Budget Adjustments), but this is not always possible.

The food budget is based on the assumption that you will cook most of your meals and pack your lunch most days.

The transportation budget is not taking in to account the student discount program the Office for Student Affairs offers with the MBTA. If you take advantage of this program, you will pay closer to $45/month.

In addition to monthly expenses, the Cost of Attendance also provides an estimation of books and supplies. Although there are some opportunities for students to find lower cost or free textbooks, there are many courses that charge mandatory course material fees due to copyrighted material used in the course. You can find an estimate for each course in the course catalog before you enroll. Additionally, cross-registering at different Harvard schools may come with additional fees.

The COA estimate is $693 per semester enrolled for all books and supplies (inclusive of course material fees and costs associated with cross-registration).

With supporting documentation, individual adjustments to the Cost of Attendance may be made for the following:

      • Rent/Utilities higher than allowed
      • Dependent care allowance
      • Medical/Dental expenses not covered by insurance
      • The cost of one round-trip coach ticket to/from student’s home
      • School-related trips
      • Purchase or rental of a personal computer (up to $2,500)

For rent & utilities adjustments, the student must be able to provide a documented reason for the higher cost. We do not approve adjustments if a student took on a higher cost apartment because they prefer to live alone.

Students seeking an individual adjustment to their expense budget should complete the Budget Adjustment Form. Budget adjustments can be reviewed anytime during the academic year, but generally no later than the end of April.

Harvard Chan School resources are limited and budget adjustments most often only allow students to increase their borrowing eligibility. However, should your specific situation be an emergency, we would encourage you to make an appointment to meet with one of our staff members.

Federal regulation determines what is considered an educational expense. Below are some examples of expenses that we are unable to consider:

    • Expenses during periods of non-enrollment (often summer months of June, July and August)
    • Prior and/or future year balances due (only current educational expenses considered)
    • Prior credit card debt
    • Relocation costs such as moving expenses, furniture, and purchase of winter clothing
    • Costs associated with purchase, parking and maintenance of cars
    • Costs associated with private education of children
    • Costs associated with job interviewing and certification exams
    • Costs associated with visa certification for spouse and/or child/children

The financial requirements for visa processing are not always the same amounts as the Cost of Attendance. For example, in multi-year programs, the amount a student needs to certify for visa purposes may be higher than what the COA will allow a student to borrow. International students will need to demonstrate personal resources to cover the difference.

You can review the 2021-22 Harvard Chan School Required Levels of Support for VISA Certification to understand whether your visa certification amount is the same or higher than your COA. More information on the Visa process is found on the Admitted Student website.

International students should be aware that the Office of Financial Aid cannot make adjustments to the budget to allow for additional borrowing to bring a spouse or children to the United States.  The only exceptions to this are if the spouse is considered a legal dependent of the student, or in certain cases in the student has expenses related to their child/children such as daycare costs necessary to attending school.

This section does not apply to DrPH students whose program has built-in summer enrollment requirements, which can be seen in the Cost of Attendance for that population. This population is billed in thirds, not halves. 

Summer living expenses are not calculated as part of the standard COA and students should budget this term separately. Students will be billed in two equal halves in July and November for the academic year, regardless of summer enrollment (there is no additional charge for summer enrollment).

Budget adjustments for summer living expenses (July & August) are considered only when a student is enrolled in 7.5 credits or more in the summer (in conjunction with a minimum enrollment of at least 10 credits in both the fall and spring semesters). Please use this form if you are an MPH or SM student to determine if you are eligible.

PLEASE NOTEInternational students looking to enroll in the summer will need to show additional resources for living expenses.

The Office of Financial Aid is required to have a standard COA for federal aid compliance as well as an institutional policy for determining funding eligibility.