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Each school must determine a Cost of Attendance, also referred to as the "student budget," for each of its programs.

  • During a given period of enrollment (usually a two-trimester academic year), a student is not allowed to receive a total amount of student aid (including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, private student loans, and Federal Work-Study) that exceeds that student's Cost of Attendance.
  • The Cost of Attendance includes the student's tuition and fees as charged by the school, as well as allowances for books, supplies, and living expenses such as rent, food, utilities, transportation, and an allowance for miscellaneous personal expenses.

The standard Cost of Attendance budgets at California Western School of Law include a generous living expense allowance that should cover the education costs of the majority of California Western students.

We strongly urge students to limit their borrowing to the amount of the standard Cost of Attendance or ideally even less, but in some cases, a student may incur allowable education expenses that are either greater than the amounts included in the standard budget or else not included at all.

  • In these cases and at its discretion, a school's financial aid office may allow students to request an adjustment based on their documented actual expenses.
  • If approved, such an adjustment will result in additional eligibility for federal student aid, usually in the form of Federal Graduate PLUS loans.

A Cost of Attendance is tied to a period of enrollment (generally a two-trimester academic year). If a student incurs costs that exceed the amount in certain included budget categories, or certain allowable costs that are not included in the standard cost of attendance, the student may request an adjustment for those costs.

CASH AND THIRD-PARTY TRANSACTIONS WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED. The Financial Aid Office will only accept documented purchases made with a credit card, debit card, check, or other transaction type which shows the identity of the purchaser, the identity of the seller, and the date and amount of the purchase. Purchases made by another person and then reimbursed by the student will not be accepted.

Some allowable costs:

  • Unreimbursed medical expenses, including prescriptions
  • Licensed day care (does not include private school tuition)
  • Auto repair costs other than routine maintenance
  • Additional gasoline costs, if student lives more than 20 miles from school
  • Airfare or other round trip travel costs, if needed to travel to an out-of-town internship or to attend approved classes at an out-of-town institution
  • Computer purchase (not to exceed $1500, one time only)
  • Bar exam costs (direct cost of the first bar exam only; cannot include bar study course fees or other related costs; cannot include living expenses after graduation; one time only)
  • Other allowable costs that are determined by the Financial Aid Office to be directly related to a student's education

Note that the Financial Aid Office may limit the amount of a student's increase for any reason, and must decline an increase if it is determined that the cost was not incurred during the current period of enrollment or if it is not an allowable education-related expense.

Some unallowable costs:

  • Auto purchase or payments
  • Credit card or other consumer debt payments
  • Moving expenses and security deposits
  • Costs incurred outside of the current academic year, including costs incurred before matriculation that do not directly relate to the current academic year or after the final day of exams for the student's final term
  • Costs incurred by a family member or other person, including a spouse or roommate's portion of rent, mortgage, or day care
  • Child support and other child care expenses (other than day care)
  • Legal fees, bail, traffic tickets, parking tickets, or fines
  • Veterinary costs, unless for a service animal
  • Luxury items, such as premium cable channels, high-speed internet, food costs in excess of the standard allowance or other similar costs unless required for a specific education-related reason

Because most budget increases must be done after an expense is incurred, students may wish to determine in advance whether a cost would be approved prior to incurring that cost. In such cases, students should submit a request for a pre-approval.

  • Financial Aid Office staff will review the request and inform the student of the amount that would be approved.
  • After a pre-approval, a student must still submit proof that the pre-approved payment was made during the current award period in order to receive a budget adjustment and additional student aid.

Since most budget increases result in eligibility for additional Graduate PLUS, a student may undergo an additional credit check. A student will be required to obtain an additional endorser addendum if the student needs an endorser to qualify for Graduate PLUS.

Students should not rely on their requested funds until those funds are disbursed by the Business Office. Any expenditures or financial decisions made prior to disbursement are the student's responsibility and are at the student's own risk.

The form to request a budget increase is available on our Forms page or via this direct link. The form to request an increase for bar exam costs is available here.