The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is the amount you and your family are expected to be able to contribute toward the cost of attending college for a single academic year. It is calculated using a standard government formula that looks at your family's income and assets, family size, and number of family members who will be attending college.
Colleges use the EFC to determine your family's "financial need," the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Your EFC is calculated using information you provide on the federal government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
After receiving your FAFSA, the government calculates your EFC and sends it to the colleges you have specified.
There is an assumption that your family will be able to contribute the amount specified as your EFC using current income and savings. However, this is not reality for many families, who find that they must borrow to cover their EFC.
What is a Good EFC Number?
Most parents misunderstand how an EFC number is used and it is generally assumed that a low EFC number is a better number. In general, a lower EFC number will result in a higher award from the government. EFC numbers are calculated by schools using the same scale as does the government. Once your FAFSA form is received, the schools arrive at a number between 0 and 4617 that will result in a federal student aid grant for the following academic year.
Any person with an EFC number at 0 will receive the maximum amount of student aid, while a number over 5273 will result in no aid at all. The numbers, and the amount awarded, fluctuate annually. The closer you can get to zero, the more federal dollars you'll have to help pay for tuition and fees.
However, if your family receives a low EFC number that is still higher than what is affordable, it is not a good EFC number. For example, an EFC number of 500 means that your family is expected to pay at least $500 to cover tuition and fees, and you may be eligible to receive aid to cover tuition up to that amount. Even though 500 is a fairly low EFC number, if your family already lives on a tight budget, finding an extra $500 may seem impossible, making it a bad EFC number.
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