What is the Expected Family Contribution?

on February 2, 2017

What is it?


The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a measure of a family’s financial strength that determines a student’s eligibility for student financial aid.


What is the EFC Based on?


The EFC is based on the information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including income, assets, household size, number of children in college and the age of the older parent.


Financial aid is based on financial need, which is defined in terms of the EFC by subtracting the EFC from the college’s total cost of attendance (COA). Financial Need = COA – EFC. For example, if the COA is $25,000 and the EFC is $5,000, then financial need is $25,000 - $5,000 = $20,000.


How Much Aid Is Awarded Based on the EFC?


If a student has a lower EFC, the student qualifies for more need-based financial aid, since financial need is higher. Students also can qualify for more financial aid by attending a higher-cost college, since financial need increases as the cost of attendance increases.


How Does the EFC Impact Federal Pell Grants?


The Federal Pell Grant, however, depends only on the EFC. The amount of the Federal Pell Grant is the same, regardless of the cost of the college. If a student’s EFC is less than 90 percent of the maximum Federal Pell Grant, the student qualifies for a Federal Pell Grant that’s almost equal to the difference between the maximum grant and the EFC. A student with a zero EFC will qualify for the maximum Federal Pell Grant.


How Can You Determine the EFC?


The EFC can be found on the upper right-hand corner of the Student Aid Report (SAR), which is sent to the student after the FAFSA has been processed. Students who use the online FAFSA can find the EFC on the Confirmation Page that appears after they have submitted the FAFSA.


Will the EFC Cover All College Costs?


Although the name “expected family contribution” suggests that the EFC is the amount the family must contribute to a student’s college education, most families pay more.

  • Many colleges do not provide enough financial aid to cover a family’s full demonstrated financial need, leaving them with a gap, or unmet need.
  • Even when a college meets a family’s full demonstrated financial need, most colleges provide loans as part of the financial aid package. Loans must be repaid, often with interest.
  • Some colleges use a different form and formula to calculate the EFC. For example, the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and institutional methodology redefine financial need in ways that often increase the student’s EFC.

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