While preparing for college, one of the most important considerations is how to pay for it. All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form because it is used to determine students’ eligibility for various federal aid programs. Schools often use FAFSA data to award funds from state and institutional-based aid programs as well. Aid eligibility is based on a variety of factors, including your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Expected Family Contribution
When completing the FAFSA form, you’ll need to provide certain information. You need to detail your (and likely your parents’) income, assets, family size, and number of family members attending college. The FAFSA form uses all of the information you provide to determine a figure known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Colleges use your EFC to determine the amount and types of financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Cost of Attendance
Each college sets a figure known as the Cost of Attendance. Direct costs such as tuition, fees, books, as well as room and board make up the Cost of Attendance. It also includes other indirect costs such as transportation and other personal expenses. Colleges and universities have varying Costs of Attendance, but your EFC remains the same, regardless of where you go.
Financial aid offices use the formula below to calculate your financial need. Then your school tries to meet your financial need through a variety of financial aid programs.
Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need
The lower your EFC, the greater the likelihood you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid such as grants, work-study, and Direct Subsidized Loans. Remember that your EFC stays the same no matter which school you attend. In addition to any financial contribution you can make to your education, there are other financial aid sources that can be used to help fund your college education such as Direct Unsubsidized Loans, PLUS loans, private loans, and other aid programs not based on financial need. It’s best to exhaust all sources of grants and scholarships before borrowing for college. You can use a free search at Peterson’s to find available scholarship opportunities. You can also visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to learn more about the EFC, FAFSA form, and financial aid programs.
Nelnet Bank does not provide legal, investment, tax, or financial advice. This page and the information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This content is not meant to address the circumstances of any particular individual. Nothing contained in this article constitutes a recommendation or endorsement by Nelnet Bank. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consult with a qualified professional.