How Do I Estimate My EFC?

Estimating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is as easy as using an online calculator. Your EFC is a figure financial aid departments use to determine how much aid you would receive if you attended their school. The EFC is calculated using a specific formula established by law, which considers your family’s income, assets, benefits, and size. As such, EFC calculators are the best way to get an accurate estimate of how much your Expected Family Contribution will be for the upcoming school year.

What Is an EFC?

Your Expected Family Contribution is a number used to determine your eligibility for financial aid. The EFC formula requires the information provided on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), so you will receive your EFC after submitting the FAFSA®.

Once financial aid administrators at your prospective schools receive your FAFSA®, they will subtract the EFC from your cost of attendance to figure out how much financial assistance you need through the U.S. Department of Education. After considering how much your family can contribute, administrators might be able to offer you Stafford Loans through the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, Federal Pell Grants, Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Work-Study, or supplemental federal grants.

How Can I Calculate My EFC?

Many online EFC calculators can help you determine how much your family can be expected to contribute to your education. Because there is no one formula for every prospective student, this is the simplest way to get a general estimate that can help you plan for your educational expenses.

There are, however, three regular formulas for determining EFC:

  • Formula A for dependent students
  • Formula B for independent students without dependents other than a spouse
  • Formula C for independent students with dependents

The Formula A worksheet accounts for your parents’ adjusted gross income, taxable income, and untaxed income and benefits. It also considers allowances against your parents’ income, such as paid income taxes. You must also provide information about your parents’ assets, including any cash savings, bank account balances, investments, adjusted net worth, and so on. The worksheet guides you through the formula steps to determine your parents’ contribution.

The Formula A worksheet also requires information regarding your own income, allowances, and assets to determine your total Expected Family Contribution.

Formulas B and C are similar, but they do not consider your parents’ income because you are an independent student. These formulas consider your own income and assets as well as the costs associated with raising dependents if you have children.

Is the EFC the Amount I Owe the College?

No. While university financial aid departments use the EFC to decide how much financial aid you should receive, it doesn’t automatically mean this is the amount you will need to pay. In some cases, even if your EFC isn’t zero, you might not be responsible for paying anything out of your own pocket.

The EFC gets subtracted from the total costs associated with attending an institution for one academic year. This means subtracting your family’s expected contribution from tuition, room and board, fees, supplies, books, transportation costs, and personal expenses.

Will My EFC Be the Same For Different Colleges?

Not necessarily. You will receive a single EFC amount after completing the FAFSA®, which every college to which you’ve applied will use, but this doesn’t mean your actual contribution will be the same at every institution. Financial aid policies vary from school to school, so there’s no way to tell until you’ve applied for financial aid at each college you’re considering. For example, some schools consider special family circumstances, such as medical expenses, while others don’t.

Is the EFC All I’m Expected to Pay While in College?

Not necessarily. Not every student receives a financial aid package large enough to cover their entire needs plus extra for other education-related expenses. If your family is expected to contribute some money to your education, you might be able to take out a PLUS Loan or private student loan to help cover any gaps. Even so, if your family is financially able to pay the school without taking out an additional loan, you’ll save money in the long run.

My EFC Seems High. What Should I Do?

Contact the college’s financial aid department if your family experiences a significant change in income from the information provided on the FAFSA®. The school might be able to work with you to figure out other options, but don’t wait. Contact them as soon as possible.