Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Understanding the EFC FAFSA process is sometimes a daunting task for future college students and their parents.

Because the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is so complex and has so many different eligibility restrictions, it can be challenging to find the information that applies specifically to your financial needs. Created and distributed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), this federal program is one of the most widely used education-based financial aid programs across America.

Although looking at a FAFSA EFC chart can help you to prepare for your finances throughout your college years, it is important to understand why this information is helpful in the first place. Not everyone is eligible to receive this type of financial aid, so being aware of your family’s financial situation and how it compares to your future college costs can be an excellent way to plan ahead. This article will help you to understand the EFC in a much clearer way, and inform you of how to prepare for your potential student aid amounts.

What is an EFC FAFSA figure?

Your Expected Family Contribution is an extremely important figure for financial aid purposes, but it is not something that you might normally know if you are not looking to apply for FAFSA aid. Your EFC is the amount that your family is expected to be able to contribute to your tuition costs according to your family’s income level. This federal government aid is designed to provide students with a certain amount of tuition and textbook cost assistance, as long as they meet certain eligibility guidelines. Perhaps the most important of these guidelines is the student’s household income level. FAFSA aid is not for everyone, and those individuals who are not able to express a financial need for this aid will not be able to receive it.

Utilizing a FAFSA EFC calculator can allow you to get an estimate of whether or not this kind of financial aid is right for you, and how much aid you may be able to plan for. There is a certain level of variability in this planning, as certain eligibility requirements are likely to change in between now and you or your child’s eventual college career. However, keeping your current EFC in mind is a critical step in making the college decision that is best for you and your family’s finances.

Why is the FAFSA EFC number relevant?

A student’s estimated Expected Family Contribution is used for a variety of financial aid purposes, but its biggest importance lies in determining their eligibility for any number of the different need-based aid programs. Some of these FAFSA programs include the following:

  • Grants, such as Pell Grants or Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, which are specific gifts of tuition aid.
  • Loans, such as Perkins Loans or Stafford Loans, which are designed to be paid back to the ED over a long period of time.
  • Work-study programs, which are specialized part-time jobs that are meant to allow students to work off their tuition aid.

Related Article: FAFSA Info for Parents

If your FAFSA Expected Family Contribution is too high, many of these forms of aid will be unavailable to you upon submission of your FAFSA form. However, this should not prevent you from applying, as the income guidelines each form of financial aid are different. Certain non-need-based programs, such as the TEACH Grant for education majors, are also subject to FAFSA rules based on your EFC.

Different Types of FAFSA Expected Family Contribution

Finding your own FAFSA EFC meaning is entirely based on what kind of EFC you need to calculate. There are different formulas designed for different types of students, which will greatly impact the amount of financial contribution that a student could potentially get from their family. These EFCs include:

  • Dependent Student EFCs. This is when the student is younger than 18 years old and has been declared as a dependent on their parents’ most recent tax returns.
  • Independent Student with a Non-Spousal Dependent EFCs. This is when the student is 18 years of age or older and also has a dependent that they can claim on a tax return who is not their spouse.

Your Expected Family Contribution EFC is determined by all of these factors, which is a major reason why FAFSA aid is only applicable to certain individuals. If you fall within the first category, you are more likely to receive less financial aid than someone who falls in the second category. This is because a student who is still listed as a dependent will likely receive some sort of financial assistance from their parents, whereas that is not quite as often the case for a student with dependents of their own.

How is expected family contribution calculated?

Calculating your FAFSA EFC number is important, as it will allow you to determine the amount of financial aid that you will receive from the U.S. government. There are a number of different criteria that go into this figure for each of the types that were previously mentioned, which include:

  • Your family’s income, both taxed and untaxed.
  • Your family size and demographics, including who will be listed as dependents and who will be attending a university or college in the next year.
  • Your family’s non-cash assets and benefits, such as cars, furniture, Social Security, insurance policies, scholarships and more.

When inputted into the correct online calculators, this information will be able to inform you of the EFC that best fits into your FAFSA application.

Answering the question “How is Expected Family Contribution calculated?” is accomplished as described above, which then allows you to use that number in a different formula. Namely, you can subtract your EFC from your Cost of Attendance (COA) in order to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for.

Your COA is comprised of the tuition and other miscellaneous costs of attending your university of choice, which will often be a much higher number than your EFC. If the two numbers are close to each other, you will likely be ineligible for FAFSA coverage. Finding your EFC figure is rarely a simple task, but taking the time to do so can allow you to better prepare for your potential financial future.

Related Article: FAFSA Deadlines

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