FAQ About Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)

The Big Question Mark Sculpture at Ipswich Campus.

Flickr user Martin Pettitt

When you are filling out your FAFSA, there are some factors that help calculate your personal EFC. Every student’s EFC is different. There is no “magic number” that will guarantee whether you will receive aid or not, but your EFC is a huge contributing factor! Listed below are some frequently asked questions regarding the EFC, how it is calculated, and what you need to know to make sure this important piece of information can affect how much financial aid you may receive.

What is the EFC?

The EFC stands for Estimated Family Contribution, and is a measure of how much your family is expected to pay for your college education. Some of the factors that affect your EFC include your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, any benefits such as Social Security or unemployment (if or when applicable), and how many members make up your household.

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How exactly is my EFC calculated?

Your EFC is calculated based on a formula established by federal law. The formula basically takes into consideration the size of your family, how much money your family has, and how many of your family members are currently enrolled in college or graduate school.

If I work a part-time or in after-school job, will it affect my EFC?

If you are working to help support your family, whether with a part-time job on weekends or after school, you may also use those earnings to help you figure your EFC.

How do colleges use the EFC?

Colleges subtract your EFC from the overall cost to attend their institution for one year. This overall cost includes tuition and fees, room and board, supplies, transportation, and other personal expenses. The number arrived after subtracting your EFC from the total cost to attend that college is the amount of financial aid you will need to attend that particular institution.

What do I do if my EFC is estimated to be higher than it really is?

Contact the financial aid office of the school you want to attend. Sometimes mistakes happen, and an EFC may be calculated incorrectly. Call the financial aid office as soon as you can to make sure there hasn’t been any sort of mistake. Also ask about other financial aid that may be available to you as well, such as grants, scholarships, or work study employment opportunities.

What happens if my EFC is high?

A high EFC means you may not qualify for financial aid, or you may qualify for limited financial aid. The higher your EFC, the lower your financial aid you can expect to qualify for.

What happens if my EFC is low?

If your EFC is low or limited, you qualify for more financial aid. The lower your EFC, the more the financial aid you qualify for.

Financial aid varies from school to school. Check out all your financial aid options to choose the correct one for you and your situation. If you believe your EFC has been calculated in error, call the school’s financial aid office and seek help from an experienced advisor.