What is the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution?)
EFC is the abbreviation for Estimated Family Contribution. Your EFC amount is used by the school that your student is applying to as well as the Federal Government in determining how much your family can contribute to your student’s college education.
Your EFC number is the heart and soul of the financial aid process. The EFC score will determine if you qualify for federal financial aid assistance. Federal financial aid can be used for all post-secondary educational expenses, while in school.
The EFC is based on a preset formula that, in the case of Federal financial aid, is set by law. The EFC formula takes into account the following criteria:
Note: Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive.
When a student applies and submits a FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Student Aid) application the student will automatically receive an EFC number. This number represents the amount a family can expect to contribute towards a student’s college costs. Financial aid administrators (FAAs) determine an applicant’s need for federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources of assistance by subtracting the EFC from the student’s cost of attendance (COA).
The EFC score is used to determine the need for aid from the following types of federal student financial assistance:
(1) Federal Pell Grants, Academic,
(2) Competitiveness Grants (ACGs),
(3) National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grants (National SMART Grants).
(4) Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants (TEACH Grants)
(5) Subsidized Stafford Loans (through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan [DL] Program or through the Federal Family Education Loan [FFEL] Program)
(6) “Campus-based” programs—
SAR (Student Aid Report)
All data used to calculate a student’s EFC comes from the information the student provides on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After the FAFSA has been processed, your school will send an output document containing information about his or her application results. This document, which can be paper or electronic, is called a Student Aid Report (SAR).
The SAR lists all the information from the student’s application and indicates whether or not the application was complete and signed. The SAR will include the student’s EFC if the application is complete and signed and no data conflicts. Students are instructed to carefully check the information on the SAR to ensure its accuracy. All schools listed on the student’s FAFSA receive application information and processing results in an electronic file called an Institutional Student Information Record (ISIR). Each school’s financial aid office then subtracts your expected family contribution from their school’s unique cost of attendance (COA), resulting in your financial need for that school.
There are many variables involved in calculating your unique Expected Family Contribution; therefore it’s very hard to give any rules of thumb about what someone’s EFC will be based on a single factor such as income or assets. The Department of Education does provide an online estimation tool called the FAFSA4caster to help families estimate their EFC.
Be aware of the penalties, fines and or jail time, if you fudge your information. The easiest way to cut your expected family contribution is to be declared an independent student, though this requires meeting certain criteria. By removing a parent’s income and assets, it could substantially decrease the EFC and qualify you for more financial aid.
Dependency Status Determination
Dependency in financial aid is significantly different than dependency for tax purposes. Listed below are the criteria the Department of Education classifies as an dependent student
Regardless of how much support a student actually receives from his or her parents, he or she is still considered a DEPENDENT student for financial aid purposes UNLESS at least one of the following criteria is met:
Independent Status Determination
The most important aspect of this is to remember that your school has the right to reassess certain circumstances, a process called professional judgment.
If you answer Yes, to any of the following questions, you are considered an independent student on the FAFSA:
If you are considered an independent student, your parent’s information is not required on the FAFSA.
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