The Expected Family Contribution (EFC): FAQs

Colleges figure out how much financial aid they’ll offer you, in part, by calculating your expected family contribution (EFC). Your EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength. It's a number that’s calculated using information you provide on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), the CSS Profile, and other financial aid forms.

FAQs

What’s EFC?

EFC is a measure of your and your family’s financial strength that’s used to determine your eligibility for different types of financial aid.

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How is the EFC calculated?

EFC is calculated by looking at how much money your family has, how big your family is, and how many people in your family are in college. The federal government uses a formula called Federal Methodology to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. Many colleges use a formula called Institutional Methodology to determine your eligibility for institutional financial aid.

The EFC Calculator can help you estimate what your EFC will be using either methodology.

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How do colleges use the EFC?

Colleges subtract your EFC from the total cost of attending their institution for one year. The total cost─which includes tuition, fees, housing and meal plan, and indirect expenses─minus your EFC is how much financial aid they estimate you’ll need to attend the college.

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Why isn’t my EFC the same at every college?

Financial aid policies and what’s considered when determining your EFC can vary from college to college. For example, some colleges may consider special circumstances, such as recent loss of a job or unforeseen medical expenses, while others may not.

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Is the EFC the only amount I will need to pay to go to college?

Not necessarily. Colleges might not be able to offer you a financial package that meets your full need. In these cases, your family will need to cover the gap (as well as pay the EFC) out of pocket or with scholarships. Use a college’s net price calculator to estimate how much financial aid you may receive.

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What can I do if my EFC seems higher than it should be?

If you believe that a college has calculated your EFC incorrectly, contact the financial aid office. Financial aid administrators can explain how they determined your EFC and discuss your options. Your EFC may be lowered if your family has had a significant change in income or expenses since you applied.

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What should I do if my EFC is high?

If your EFC is high, you shouldn’t expect to receive a large need-based financial aid package. Look for colleges that have a strong merit-awards policy.

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What should I do if my EFC is low?

If your EFC is low, you’re more likely to receive a larger need-based financial aid package. Look for colleges that offer significant need-based financial aid packages.

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What should I do if financial aid isn’t enough?

If your financial aid package falls short of what you need, you have options. Consider applying for outside scholarships, getting a part-time job, finding ways to reduce college costs, or taking out a private loan.

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How does the Federal Methodology work?

Federal Methodology (FM) relies on the information you provide on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to figure out your EFC. This version of your EFC determines how much financial aid you can get from the U.S. government. Some colleges use FM to award their institutional funds as well.

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How does the Institutional Methodology work?

Institutional Methodology (IM) relies on information you supply in the CSS Profile (the College Board’s financial aid application service) to figure out your EFC. This version of your EFC is used by some colleges and scholarship programs to determine how much nonfederal financial aid to give you.

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