What is Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?

Find out what an EFC is and how it will affect your financial aid packages for college.

Edited By Christa Fletcher | March 04, 2014

If you’re unable to secure more financial aid, apply for merit-based financial aid, such as additional college scholarships, to supplement the aid offered in your award letter.
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As you start looking into financial aid for college, you’ll see the term Expected Family Contribution (EFC). What is it? The short answer is that it’s the amount of money that the government estimates your family can afford to contribute toward your college education.

The EFC is based on your parent's income and household expenses. This information is gathered when you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Once your receive you EFC, you can find out exactly how much financial aid you will receive from federal, state and campus funds. This aid can come in four forms: scholarships, grants, work study and student loans.

If you have special financial circumstances that you believe colleges haven’t taken into consideration when assessing your need, you can file an appeal for more aid.

Read on to learn what this EFC includes and how it’s calculated, as well as what your options are if the financial aid you’re awarded for tuition doesn’t meet your financial needs.

What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?

The EFC is an assessment of how much money your family can afford to pay for college. According to the FAFSA website, the EFC is calculated by a formula that includes "your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security)." The formula also considers your family size and the number of family members who will attend college at the same time as you.

Your financial need is calculated by the federal government and the colleges and universities you’re applying to and it's used to determine your eligibility for certain kinds of financial aid, including federal grants and loans, as well as state grants and campus scholarships.

How is it calculated?

Your EFC is based on your family’s financial income and assets. It is then subtracted by the Cost of Attendance (COA) for each school you’re admitted to, which includes tuition, room and board, expenses and other fees. The resulting sum is considered your financial need, or the amount of financial aid you’re eligible for.

The Department of Education and the colleges and universities you’re applying to each determine your expected family contribution a bit differently. The government looks at the information you provide in your FAFSA to see what federal grants and state college aid you’re eligible or, as well as financial aid for some colleges.

Many private colleges and universities, as well as some scholarship programs, use a different form, known as the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE Application, to determine your EFC. The CSS PROFILE is conducted through the College Scholarship Service (CSS), which is a division of the College Board, you can find the form here. Unlike the federal government, private schools will also take into account the value of any property your family owns, the amount of aid available at that college or university, that college’s admissions and aid policies and any special financial circumstances.

What can you do if your EFC is more than you can afford?

If you have special financial circumstances that you believe colleges haven’t taken into consideration when assessing your need, you can file an appeal for more financial aid. Most colleges require these appeals in writing, detailing the circumstances you believe have been overlooked and/or have changed since you filed your application for financial aid. Contact the financial aid office for the school to find out their process for financial aid appeals.

If you’re unable to secure more financial aid, apply for merit-based financial aid, such as additional college scholarships, to supplement the aid offered in your award letter. Other options to pay for your college degree include borrowing money through student loans, getting a part-time job or reducing your current costs, through finding cheaper housing, buying used textbooks or getting on a less expensive meal plan at college.

Quick Tips

  • Review your FAFSA and PROFILE forms early so can gather the necessary paperwork and fill them out quickly and accurately. Getting the forms in early and without errors gives you the most opportunities for getting financial aid.
  • Contact each school to find out if they require the PROFILE form in addition to the FAFSA form when assessing financial aid.
  • Contact each school’s financial aid office to find out if they have any additional financial aid policies you may not be aware of. The more you know about how a college or university determines your eligibility for college aid, the more likely you are to receive available college money.
  • If you’re financially unable to attend a four-year college, consider getting an associate's degree at a community college first. Many associates degree programs will allow you to transfer those credits toward a bachelor's degree.


People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Complete Your FAFSA
5 Helpful FAFSA Tips
Understanding Student Aid: Federal, State and College Aid
Are You Eligible for Federal Financial Aid?
What to Do When You Receive a Student Aid Report (SAR)

See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles

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