Nicole Hosemann, Founder and Consultant, On My Way Consulting
I find it easiest to think of it this way:
Cost of Attendance is the FULL cost of attending a particular college, including: - Tuition - Fees - Room and Board - Transportation - Personal Expenses
Within the Cost of Attendance, there are Fixed Costs and Variable Costs. The Fixed Costs are those that are set by the college, including tuition, fees and room and board. (Note that at most colleges, students can chose dorms and meal plans at different price points, so there is some variation within each college’s Room and Board estimate.)
Variable Costs are those that the student does have control over, including books, transportation, and personal expenses. When a college includes these items in the Cost of Attendance, they usually give an average for all students. When estimating your actual costs, remember that these can vary a lot depending on the student and their individual circumstances!
The term Comprehensive Costs is used less commonly, and usually refers to the total of all Fixed Costs (Tuition, fees and room and board)
Tuition refers to the actual cost of taking classes, and is always included in Cost of Attendance and Comprehensive Costs.