Graduate Cost of Attendance and Living Calculator

The Graduate Cost of Attendance and Living Calculator measures the estimated cost of expenses associated with life as a graduate student at UCSC. This calculator uses regionally-adjusted market-based estimates from federal sources whenever possible, and is supplemented by other local survey data. Expenses listed below were validated by a series of focus groups with UCSC graduate students and reflect costs that incur across a variety of groups of graduate students. For further details on methodology, background, and policy recommendations, please see our 'Final Report: Graduate Student Cost of Attendance and Living Calculator Project.'

Step 1:
Personalize your estimates by entering your family size and car and living circumstances
Step 2:
Estimate costs that vary by department and individual
Note that your estimate will appear when you enter a number in both of the below fields

Monthly Costs

The estimates reflect the cost of each living arrangement. The estimate is the rental price at the 40th percentile for Santa Cruz county and is derived from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Market Rents, FY 2022. The estimate is for gross rent that includes cost of shelter and basic utilities like water and gas.
*Note that the rental market in Santa Cruz has high turnover and graduate students reported moving several times in focus groups- which might result in additional moving expenses. Additionally, rent prices have increased at a rate of 23% each year and therefore rent prices might be an underestimate.
*Note if the total number of occupants is 2, the calculator will enforce a 1 bedroom rental; any more occupants and it will enforce a 2 bedroom rental.
Based on the Low-Cost Food Plan of the United States Department of Agriculture, the estimate includes the majority of meals prepared at home from scratch with occasional meals outside the home, which was the most common arrangement reported in focus groups (conducted in 2020 for the first version of the calculator.) The plan is based on a basic and adequately nutritious diet that accounts for a total of twenty-six items, bought from the market, and used to prepare meals in home (broader categories are grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products, meats and beans, and other foods). The county specific cost for Santa Cruz is derived using a region-specific multiplier from Map the Meal Gap, 2021 data. Estimates for occasional outside meals are taken from the Graduate Cost of Attendance Survey, 2016-17 (adjusted for inflation using Consumer Price Index for 2022.)
The items in this basket are those that do not fall into the other mentioned baskets but that are necessary for a modest yet adequate standard of living. These items include: clothing and shoes, cleaning products and household items, personal hygiene items, and telephone service. It does not include recreation, entertainment, savings, or debt repayment. Estimates are derived from the Consumer Expenditure Survey data and the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Given the more hybrid nature of work because of COVID-19, meaning more expenditure on broadband and cell phones, Standard includes these new, and increased costs, within necessary expenses. For Broadband, the standard uses Federal Communications Commission Urban Rate Survey Data to calculate a monthly cost for minimally adequate services - a download bandwidth range of 12-100 Mbps. For Cell phone, standard assumes that each adult in a household needs access to a phone device with up to 5 GB of data per month. The cost is derived by averaging the cost per gigabyte with nine United States cell phone plans having widespread coverage. The overall estimate also include average costs of financing a basic cell phone with down payments for two years, and first time costs of a modem and router.
The estimate for healthcare assumes that the graduate student has GSHIP healthcare premiums remitted with a 25+% FTE appointment (i.e., if the graduate student is working at least 10 hours per week, their premiums are covered). This coverage does not include the cost of co-pays and is limited in its coverage of dental and vision care. We make use of the Self Sufficiency Standard’s out-of-pocket health care cost estimate from the national Medical Panel Survey, regionally adjusted for Santa Cruz County, which includes: premium costs, medical services, drugs and medical supplies. However, since graduate students don’t pay premiums for GSHIP, these premium costs are subtracted from the Self Sufficiency Standard estimate. *Note: In focus groups, many graduate students reported significant out-of-pocket dental costs, which may not be fully reflected in this estimate.
The estimate for recreation is derived from a 2016-17 institutional survey of graduate students. The estimate for an individual graduate was originally $70. With adjustment for inflation, the estimate is now $80, and addition for $40 is included for each additional member of the household. This estimate includes items such as a gym membership or subscriptions to online entertainment services (e.g., Amazon or Netflix).
The estimate for transportation assumes that the graduate student [and any additional adult in the household] drives a car. This includes the cost of gas, routine maintenance, financing, insurance, and a B-permit for on-campus parking. The estimate is based on the Self Sufficiency Standard, which draws on estimates from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Consumer Expenditure Survey. For students without cars, we have made use of the estimates from the UCSC Office of Financial Aid under the category of transportation but living on campus - assumption being that you are not using a car for daily commute. Although a majority of graduate students drive a car, many alternatively use public transportation or ride a bike. *Note: Campus fees cover the cost of a local bus pass for the graduate student, but not for additional family members.
The estimate is derived from the 2022 Financial Aid estimated cost for books and educational supplies (a student-specific cost over and above that of standard personal supplies). Campus fee is another cost borne by graduate students at UC Santa Cruz. Note: the amount of fee remission varies by department and type of graduate student employment.This estimate reflects partial fee remission ($100 remission from fees), which is standard for academic student employees (e.g., teaching assistants). Estimate includes the annual cost for books and educational supplies.
The estimate is reflective of child care center and family child care center rates for a preschool and infant in Santa Cruz. The market cost for decent and equal access for child care is set at the 85th percentile, especially for California, according to the Family Support Act, 1988 and further reaffirmed by The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014. Data, adjusted for inflation, is from California Department of Education’s Regional Market Rate Survey of California Child Care Providers, 2018.
Graduate students and their families often face an economically precarious existence with little cushion for emergencies or unexpected expenses. This item, drawing from the Self-Sufficiency Standard, is a way to arrive at the most universal of economic security needs after basic needs are met - savings for emergencies. The estimate is based on making up for earnings of one adult becoming unemployed over the average job loss period, less the amount expected to be received in unemployment benefits. For California, the median length of job tenure is five years, so savings is done for job loss over a course of five years. The estimate also assumes some accumulation on average savings account interest rate. *Note: For a two-adult household, it is assumed that the second adult continues to be employed. Hence, savings only need to cover half of the family’s basic living expenses over the job loss period. In addition, graduate students do not generally have job security for an average tenure of five years. Meaning, our estimate is an underestimation for how much graduate students might need to have general economic security.
Graduate students reported spending money on several items that are associated with their research or professional development. These items include: software subscriptions (e.g., qualitative data analysis software or photo/video editing software), hardware (e.g., computer), attending conferences, professional organizational dues, and research materials not covered by grant funding. Support for these items, as well as necessity of these items, is likely to vary by department or field. Given that this number is likely to vary widely by person, you can input an estimate that is specific to your circumstances.
Some expenses that were mentioned by graduate students but are not included in this estimate because the cost varies significantly by person are expenses associated with caring for a pet, visa costs, traveling to visit family, or providing money to non-dependent family members. Given that this number is likely to vary widely by person, you can input an estimate that is specific to your circumstances.
Taxes are a commonly overlooked cost of attendance and include federal and state income tax and FICA and Medicare. We have made use of the state-specific tax estimates generated by Self-Sufficiency Standard to estimate income and payroll taxes on the incomes required to cover graduate cost of living and attendance expenses for each of the family scenarios.Even though our graduate cost of attendance and living are different from the Standard, including specific cost of expenses for graduate students, the overall annual income required for an adequate standard of living in the county of Santa Cruz comes to about the same as that of the Standard (for all family arrangements).



NOTE: Graduate students receive tuition and partial fee remission as a condition of employment, therefore this estimate does not include remitted tuition and fees.