The Expected Family Contribution: Like Golf, The Lower The Better

Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is a number assigned to every student that completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The number itself is actually the dollar amount that the government has deemed you and your family should be able to contribute to your college education that year. Much like a golf score, the lower the number, the better. The number itself not only determines how much the government believes you should contribute to you education, but how much aid will be assigned to you. This aid assignment is different according to the school you attend, the state you live in, and what aid you have received before. The formula is complex and has several factors, however here are a few points to remember:

1. The More The Merrier – The EFC formula takes into account how many people live in a household, and of how many are in college during that school year. For example, if you live only with your mother and a sibling, your aid would be higher than if you lived with both of your parents and a sibling. Furthermore, lets say you and your brother were both attending school; your EFC would be even lower than if he were not . While it may seem counter intuitive, it actually may be beneficial for many to attend school at the same time; but make sure you crunch the numbers first before you make that kind of decision.

2. School Cost Matters – The maximum EFC one can have, and still receive the Pell Grant is $5,273. However, other forms of aid such as student loans and state aid, tend to scale according to your EFC and the cost of your school. A private school, or an out of state school school tend to be almost twice the cost of the average state university. So it’s important to keep in mind the overall cost of the school you wish to attend in relation to your EFC.

3. You Can Challenge Your EFC – After you file your FAFSA, and recieve your EFC, the battle isn’t always over. Because circumstances change and your EFC is based on last year’s taxes, you can ask for a review at the school level. If one or both of your parents have been laid off or had a sudden reduction in income, you can appeal and ask for a financial aid reassessment. No matter what, if you think last years taxes do not reflect this years realities, than by all means ask your local OFA for a reassessment. It may make all the difference between paying just a couple of thousand out of pocket, or simply not going at all.


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