This page provides an overview of important information related to financial aid, costs, billing, and more. Scroll through topics below to read more information, and please reach out to our financial aid office if you have any questions. 
  • Accepting Your Financial Aid

    You must indicate on your award notice which items you wish to accept or decline, then sign and return it to the financial aid office. Most accepted items will appear as a credit on the billing ledger soon after we receive the notice, with the exception of work-study, which will be paid directly to the student for hours worked.

  • Billing & Payment Plans

    The business office provides billing information three times per year, once prior to each trimester. The due dates are approximately mid-August, early-December and mid-March. Students are notified by email when their online billing ledgers have been updated with the next term’s charges. Parents may sign up with the business office to receive these notification emails as well. If students have financial aid they will also see the appropriate credits on their ledger. New students will be provided with information about how to access their online ledgers.

    A payment plan option is available through Tuition Management Systems (TMS) that allows for interest-free monthly payments over the course of 9 or 10 months for a low, flat fee. Please contact the business office if you are interested in exploring or setting up such a plan.

  • Costs - Direct and Indirect 

    Costs include both direct (billed) and indirect (estimated) expenses that form a comprehensive, estimated Cost of Attendance figure that is listed on Tuition & Fees page on our website. Your actual, out-of-pocket costs may be different if you qualify for financial aid. Direct costs are listed on the student ledger and may include tuition, student health and activity fees, room, board, and lab or course fees if applicable. New students will be charged an orientation fee as well. Students living off campus will not have room and board charges on their bill although estimated living expenses will still be taken into account for those that are eligible for need-based aid (i.e., as an indirect cost).

    Indirect expenses may include books, travel or other miscellaneous expenses and will vary from student to student. College of the Atlantic uses an estimate of $1,680 for the year. These costs are taken into account when evaluating a student’s eligibility for any need-based aid.

  • Enrollment Deposit

    First-time students pay a $300 enrollment deposit. Of that, $100 will be credited toward the first term tuition bill; $100 will cover the one-time registration fee; and $100 will serve as a non-refundable graduation fee. There will be a $100 non-refundable housing application fee due for students living on campus. 

  • Federal Loans

    Stafford loans are originated through the federal Direct Loan (DL) program. Students must complete an online Master Promissory Note (MPN) at before loans can be processed. The MPN is generally valid for up to 10 years. If a loan is initially accepted but the student has a change of mind, s/he has up to 30 days after classes start to notify the financial aid office so that we can cancel it and return any funds. If a student declines loan initially but changes their mind, we can usually still request up to the full annual amount before the school year ends.

    The federal PLUS loan program (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) allows the parent of a student that has completed a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to apply for a loan for a matriculated student that is enrolled at least half-time. The maximum loan amount may not exceed the cost of attendance minus any financial aid the student receives. For more information go to

  • FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects student confidentiality, even from parents in some circumstances, by limiting the sharing of certain information in the student’s school record. Students may sign a release form authorizing the school to communicate with a particular person or persons.

  • Financial Aid: Now and in Future Years

    Every family must reapply for need-based financial aid annually just as the student must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) in order to be eligible for need-based and/or merit-based aid. Aid is not automatically renewed except in the case of merit scholarships if the student has met the conditions stipulated (i.e. SAP, enrollment requirements). College of the Atlantic cannot make explicit guarantees about future need-based aid but, in general, changes in aid track changing need, changes in federal or state aid eligibility and late applications. In fact, most packages do change from year to year, in both directions, in accordance with changes in income, assets, family household size, number of children in college, etc.

    Students are also generally eligible for financial aid for up to 36 attempted credits, the number needed to graduate. Any transfer credits a student applies to their College of the Atlantic transcript count towards those 36 credits. Funding for additional credits will only be considered on an individual appeal basis if the student has not successfully completed graduation requirements. If an appeal is approved, the aid may be limited to federal sources only.

    College of the Atlantic expects all returning students to make a summer earnings contribution as part of their family contribution. Expected summer earnings contributions are: $1500 for second-year students, $1800 for third-year students, and $2100 for fourth-year students. 

  • Financial Need & Eligibility

    Financial need is determined by subtracting the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) from the Cost of Attendance.The EFC is established through institutional methodology based on income, assets, and other variables gathered from the financial aid application information, including but not limited to the FAFSA. The underlying principle of an EFC calculation is that the primary responsibility of paying for college lies with the student and family but that the calculation be “reasonable” based on such variables.

    Based on student eligibility and the level of need, College of the Atlantic will put together an aid package that may include merit aid and any subsequent need-based aid the student qualifies for such as federal grants, state grant, federal work-study, and federal student loans. The college also commits several million dollars each year to covering additional need that students may have based on available funds and institutional priorities.

    It should be noted that in accordance with federal and state regulations and institutional policies the college reserves the right to review, adjust, or cancel a student’s financial aid package at any time if warranted. Reasons might include: failure to enroll or remain in attendance; failure to meet satisfactory academic progress (SAP) requirements; falsification of or failure to report information affecting aid calculations; failure to sign or submit documents by the appropriate deadline(s); changes in the student’s program or enrollment status; unanticipated changes in federal or state funding; use of financial aid funds for expenses that are not educationally related.

    General provisions for receiving federal financial aid include but are not limited to: having a high school diploma or equivalent; being a US citizen or eligible noncitizen (i.e. permanent resident); having a valid social security number (limited exceptions); registering with the Selective Service if male and between the ages of 18 and 25; being enrolled at least half-time in an eligible degree or certificate program; and maintaining satisfactory academic progress (SAP).

  • Health Insurance

    Students are required to have health insurance while enrolled at College of the Atlantic, either through a family/individual policy or by purchasing it through the college in which case it will be billed in the first term. A student health fee is charged to all students each term regardless of insurance and whether the student resides on campus or not. This supports on-campus access to health services such as a nurse practitioner and counselors that are available to everyone. The student life staff can help with insurance and health services questions.

  • Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit

    For students that attend college and earn their entire undergraduate degree in the State of Maine the Maine Educational Opportunity Tax Credit (MEOTC) is a remarkable tax credit opportunity that may offset a significant portion or even all of your school loan debt. If you work and pay taxes in Maine after you graduate, your eligibility will be determined as you fill out your annual state tax form. You provide information about how much you paid towards your loans for the previous tax year and your tax credit will be calculated on the form. The average student is predicted to benefit by about $2,200 per year (your benefit could vary). Also, if you are out of state for a couple of years, but then come back to work and pay taxes in Maine, you can often pick up the credit from that point forward.


    This tax credit benefit is not the same as loan forgiveness programs (it’s generally considered much better). Typically, this kind of benefit accrues over time as the former student’s longevity on the job increases, whereas the MEOTC is based on how much you pay towards your loan as soon as you start filing taxes in Maine. Both loan benefit programs are worth considering.

  • Net Cost

    Families may want to compare costs between schools but this can often be complicated depending on how information from each school is presented. 

    To calculate the cost of a school, use the cost of attendance figure and subtract all gift aid that you will receive. This represents the net cost and is the most useful means of comparing schools side by side. Of course, most schools will probably offer some loan and work-study if you have applied for financial aid, so you can also see what the cost looks like after taking these into consideration as a second step. Since loans generally have to be paid back at a later date, it is important to remember that they are still part of the cost. Work-study requires an investment of time and so has some “cost” as well, although it can also provide good job experience and potentially provide work references in the future. 

  • Responsible Borrowing

    Students accepting federal loans are required to go through “entrance counseling,” usually during orientation events. This provides them with comprehensive information about their rights and responsibilities as well as general financial literacy topics including budgeting, establishing good credit and financial planning.

    The national average school loan debt for students finishing four years of undergraduate school in 2012 was about $27,500. At College of the Atlantic the figure was under $20,000. If students accept the standard levels of subsidized Stafford loan over four years, it comes to $19,000. Perkins-eligible students may have up to another $2250 added on to that. It is possible for most students to accept up to another $8,000 of unsubsidized Stafford loan. All of this could potentially add up to $29,250, which is about what the national average is estimated to be when 2014 numbers are finalized.

    While the media tends to focus on more extreme examples of students that have borrowed huge amounts of money, sometimes exceeding $100,000, these are usually students that have taken alternative (private) educational loans often in addition to federal loans and may include law, medical or even graduate students so it is important to keep things in perspective. Federal student loan limits are capped so that most dependent students (< 24 years old) cannot take on more than $31,000 in Stafford loans. This level of debt should be manageable for the vast majority of students who graduate and find employment. New government repayment plans now offer a variety of options that can tie repayments to income levels, ensuring borrowers have affordable monthly payments.

  • Types of Financial Aid: Gift Aid

    Gift aid is financial aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your circumstances, your gift aid at COA may include:

    • COA Merit Aid: Institutional money awarded in recognition of specific qualities or participation in special programs prior to coming to College of the Atlantic. A limited number of students qualify for merit aid.
    • Pell Grant: a federal grant that is determined directly from the FAFSA EFC.
    • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG): a combination of federal and institutional grant money for students with exceptionally high need.
    • State Grant: students from Maine and certain other states may have eligibility for a home state grant depending on their Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) and that state’s program requirements and policies.
    • Scholarship/Grant: additional need-based grant that may include the above if they were not predetermined when the award was initially prepared but may include mostly if not all institutional funds.
    • Outside Scholarship: all outside scholarships must be reported to the student’s college by law. College of the Atlantic has a very liberal policy towards outside scholarships in which we will first apply them to any unmet need the student may have.  If the need is fully met and there is federal aid in the package such as work-study or subsidized Stafford loan, then the aid package must be adjusted. At College of the Atlantic, we will reduce work-study and need-based loan, at our discretion, before any need-based institutional money is reduced. We strongly encourage students to aggressively seek outside scholarships as this is the best way to augment your financial aid package and possibly reduce reliance on loans. 
  • Types of Financial Aid: Self-Help Aid

    Self-help aid is financial aid that must be paid back. Depending on your circumstances, the following types of self-help aid may be included in your COA financial aid award: 

    • College Work-Study (CWS): federally funded in part with eligibility determined by the FAFSA; international students may qualify for nonfederal workstudy funds. Students are paid directly by check for hours worked, therefore the funds will not appear as a credit on the billing ledger.
    • Subsidized Stafford Loan: a federal, need-based loan with annual borrowing limits set by the student grade level (generally $3,500/4,500/5,500/5,500 over the four years). “Subsidized” means that the government pays the interest for as long as the student is enrolled at least half-time.
    • Unsubsidized Stafford Loan: a federal loan available to virtually all students that complete a FAFSA that is not based on need. Most students are eligible for $2,000 annually, sometimes more (i.e. if a parent is denied a PLUS loan or the student is 24 or older). Interest begins to accrue in the student’s name upon disbursement unless the student opts in to pay it monthly as s/he goes along.
  • Verification

    About 30% of all FAFSAs are selected by the Department of Education for a process called verification. College of the Atlantic is required to cross-check various reported information through different sources for all selected FAFSAs and see that any and all discrepancies, omissions, or errors are reconciled before the student may be considered for need-based financial aid. It is important to follow up on any verification requests in a timely manner.

  • Your Responsibilities

    Financial aid application responsibilities include providing accurate information and appropriate documentation as well as meeting all deadlines. Failure to do so may result in a reduction or cancellation of aid. Revisions to a financial aid award may be warranted for a variety of reasons including updated or corrected application information, change in expected grade level (i.e. from freshman to sophomore due to transfer credits), changes in registration, or receipt of outside funds (i.e. employee dependent tuition benefits, veterans benefits, outside scholarships).