Figuring the Expected Family Contribution

Most students and their families are unable to pay for college tuition and related expenses “out of pocket”. This means that generally each person seeking to attend college will look for financial support in one way or another. Most students seek out one or more of the federal financial aid opportunities or programs to help them pay for their school expenses. This could be anything from a Pell Grant to a Federal Perkins Loan.

Financial support for school and college expenses can come in many ways; private loans or subsidized loans, scholarships, grants and other awards. For a student to “borrow” money for school, meaning they must repay the monies after they complete their education, they will generally be required to complete a loan application. This usually needs the help of parents, because the student is usually still a dependent. It may however be the student on their own seeking the loan or funds, and that will still require the same initial paperwork.

There are also grants given to students with particular financial need, and these too tend to require official applications and documentation. Unlike loans however any federal grants will not require repayment.

In order to qualify for these programs a complete Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be required. This can be a fairly complicated process, and there are many resources to assist with this application. School guidance offices or counselors as well as many other free online or web based programs can provide some help. It is important to note that it is completely unnecessary and in fact illegal, to be charged fees associated with any sort of assistance with a FAFSA.

The FAFSA helps to demonstrate how much financial assistance a student will require, and one of the numbers taken into consideration is the “Expected Family Contribution” or the EFC. This demonstrates how much of a family’s or individual’s financial resources can realistically be directed towards educational costs.

The EFC is figured on the same formula for every single individual in question, and takes into consideration the same factors, which can include income, assets, family size, and even the number of enrolled students in the family. The EFC figure appears on the Student Aid Report, which follows the FAFSA in the application process.

The school that a student is attending, or one on the list of potential schools in the FAFSA, takes the EFC figure, subtracts it from the total cost of attendance for that academic year and assumes this final figure is the total amount required in financial aid for the student. With that figure in hand the school will assist the student in pulling together the required sums through financial aid, federal grants or even loans.