Financial Aid 101

Financial need is the difference between what it costs to go to Ithaca and what you are expected to pay. However, Ithaca College cannot always meet all of that need. Here’s how that breaks down:

Cost of attendance (COA)

A standard figure used for all undergraduate students (there are different COA figures for graduate students) that accounts for annual expenses billed by Ithaca College (tuition, fees, room & board) and potential out-of-pocket expenses that are not billed directly (books, living expenses). For determining need, we use the same COA for everyone, which is determined using rules established by law.

Student Aid Index (SAI)

The SAI is calculated according to a formula established by law. Your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) all could be considered in the formula. You can get an estimate of your SAI on the FSA website using the Federal Student Aid Estimator.

SAI = Student Contribution + Parent Contribution

The SAI is made up of two parts: the student contribution and the parent contribution.

Student contribution

  • The student contribution to the SAI is determined by taking a percentage of the student’s income and assets.

Parent contribution


  • The formula takes the parents’ total income (taxed & non-taxed) and deducts an income protection allowance (which takes into consideration where you live in determining basic expenses) and an employment allowance (which accounts for the costs of working).
  • What’s left after allowances is considered discretionary income and parents are expected to pay a percentage of that for school.


  • The value of parents’ accounts and investments is also considered.
  • An asset protection allowance (which takes the parents’ ages into account, protecting more of your assets as you get closer to retirement) is deducted before the value of the assets is included in the formula.
  • The parent contribution is calculated by a percentage of the total income and assets, AFTER allowances.

Change of Financial Status

A change in financial status may affect the amount of your aid. Learn more about how changes to your family income, expenses or outside awards can affect your need determination.

Change of Financial Status