Nov 22, 2019 Alyssa Pascarella

EFC: How Much Will You be Expected to Pay for College?

EFC is the acronym for Expected Family Contribution, which answers the question, how much will college cost my family? This is not an easy figure to arrive at, without knowing the factors and figures needed for the formula, but with the help of our EFC Calculator we can walk you through this step-by-step in just a few minutes so you can arrive at an early estimate before receiving your award package.

Expected Family Contribution for College

As you begin to narrow down the list of schools, cost can become an important factor and using a calculator can help provide you with a good starting point estimate to compare your expected “out of pocket” costs for the schools you are considering. The more you know, earlier in the process, will give the necessary time to build a sustainable payment strategy.

What goes into determining the EFC? Family income, student income, family assets, student assets, the age of the oldest parent, the number in the family, the number of college-aged children in the family, among other factors, determine your family's EFC. When you receive your EFC, you may be wondering how anyone expects your family can pay that amount, but know you are not alone, as many other families and everyone's EFC is determined by the same formula.

So how much financial aid are you eligible for? Financial aid eligibility is determined by two different formulas: The Federal Methodology and the Institutional Methodology. The Federal Methodology is used by the federal government to determine your Expected Family Contribution, often referred to as your "EFC." Your EFC can only be determined one way - by completing the FAFSA. You need to complete a FAFSA every year, as your EFC can change from year-to-year as your family's circumstances change. The school itself gets to determine what factors they use to determine how they will award their own aid and often require you to submit an additional financial aid form, such as the CSS Profile. Just keep in mind schools are not allowed to use their own Institutional Methodology for awarding federal-based financial aid.

The second factor that determines your financial aid eligibility is the school you choose to attend. While your family's EFC remains constant, your eligibility changes. For example, if your EFC is determined to be $10,000 - no matter if you choose to go to Rhode Island College or Providence College - your EFC won't change. What will change is the amount of aid you are eligible for because the price of each college is different.

Using the above example again, if your EFC is $10,000 and the school you are attending is $30,000 a year, your financial aid eligibility is $20,000. If the school you are attending is $10,000 a year, your aid eligibility is $0.

The last factor to consider is how much of your financial need each college is able to meet. In a perfect world, all schools would meet 100% of a family's financial need. So, if your EFC was $10,000 - no matter where you attend - you would know you wouldn't pay more than $10,000 each year. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Most schools do not meet 100% of financial need for all of their students.  If your EFC is $10,000, your financial aid package may still require you to pay $12,000, $15,000 or $20,000, depending on the tuition and expenses each college charges.

So, take a few minutes, grab a copy of your last year’s filed tax return and determine your estimated EFC. It’s easy!
Estimate my Expected  Family Contribution
Once you have your estimated EFC, you may want to learn more about the financial aid process and resources available to you. Start by downloading the Financial Aid 101 guide and learn:
  • What money is available to help you pay for college
  • How to apply for financial aid
  • Where to find scholarships that can reduce your need for student loans
  • Insights into how colleges determine how to award you aid


Published by Alyssa Pascarella November 22, 2019