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Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important part of paying for college. This form helps determine your eligibility for financial aid, as well as what your family is expected to contribute toward your education expenses — this is known as your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
Here’s what to know about about the Expected Family Contribution when paying for college:
- What is EFC?
- How do colleges calculate EFC?
- What does your EFC number mean?
- What to do if your finances change
- Consider private student loans to fill in the gaps
What is EFC?
Your Expected Family Contribution is an estimate of your family’s ability to pay for you to go to college. Factors such as your family’s income, assets, government benefits, and household size are taken into account when determining your EFC.
These are the financial aid programs that rely on the EFC:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Federal Pell Grants
- Federal Work-Study (FWS)
- Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
Your eligibility for financial aid is calculated using both your EFC and your school’s cost of attendance. This means your EFC has a direct impact on how much you might have to pay out of pocket.
How do colleges calculate EFC?
A school’s cost of attendance for financial aid purposes includes tuition and fees as well as other required costs, such as room and board, books, supplies, transportation, and other basic living expenses.
Because every school has a different cost of attendance, your EFC will vary depending on the school you attend as well as if you’re a dependent or independent student. You’ll likely qualify for more aid as an independent student compared to a dependent student since your parents’ income and assets won’t be included in your EFC calculation.
What does your EFC number mean?
Your final EFC number surprisingly isn’t a dollar amount. It’s an index number used to find the final dollar amount your family is expected to contribute.
An EFC can range from 0 to 999,999. For example, if you had an EFC of 0, your family wouldn’t be expected to make any financial contribution. On the other hand, if you had the 999,999 EFC, your family would be expected to pay for your entire cost of attendance.
Learn More: Average Cost of College in the U.S.
What to do if your finances change
If your financial situation changes and you need more help to pay for college, you might be able to appeal your EFC or get additional help. Here’s what to do:
- Contact the financial aid office: Some schools have specific funds set aside for students with an unexpected financial need or have resources to help you make up the difference between your family’s ability to pay and your education costs. Ask your school’s financial aid office what help is available for you.
- Appeal your financial aid award: This will also be done through the financial aid office. Make sure to include information on how your circumstances changed and how much additional aid you need.
Consider private student loans to fill in the gaps
If your federal financial aid isn’t enough to cover your school costs, private student loans could help fill the gap. While private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections that federal student loans do, they can be an important part of paying for school.
If you decide to go with a private student loan, be sure to shop around and consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can see your rates from any of our partner lenders in the table below in just two minutes.
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Lowest APRs reflect autopay, loyalty, and interest-only repayment discounts where available | 1Citizens Disclosures | 2,3College Ave Disclosures | 7EDvestinU Disclosures | 8INvestEd Disclosures | 9Sallie Mae Disclosures
See what your estimated monthly payment will be using our student loan calculator below.
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With a $ loan, you will pay $ monthly and a total of $ in interest over the life of your loan. You will pay a total of $ over the life of the loan, assuming you're making full payments while in school.