What is SAI vs EFC?


SAI replaces EFC in the 2024-2025 FAFSA. SAI is the number that colleges will use to assess your eligibility for financial aid. It’s a significant, more streamlined change from the EFC system previously used and is meant to provide a more straightforward student aid calculation for families and prospective students. 


Navigating the maze of federal student aid can be extremely confusing and overwhelming. Well, not anymore! The US Department of Education is shaking up the world of financial aid and how it’s calculated. In the not-so-distant past, financial aid was determined using the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) chart. But now, there’s a new sheriff in town—the Student Aid Index (SAI). 

Let’s dive into the specifics of this transition, breaking down SAI, why it’s important, and how it differs vs the old EFC formula.

What is SAI?

To understand this shift, let’s start with the basics. According to the Federal Student Aid (FSA), the Student Aid Index (SAI) is an eligibility index number that a college or career school’s financial aid office uses to determine how much federal student aid the student would receive if the student attended the school. This number results from the information that the student provides in their Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA® form.

Essentially, SAI is the new magic number that colleges and universities use to assess your eligibility for financial aid. It’s a significant, more streamlined change from what we’re familiar with—the EFC. Moving forward, the FAFSA process should be easier altogether and provide a more straightforward student aid calculation for families and prospective students.

Why is The SAI Important?

The Student Aid Index (SAI) plays a pivotal role in securing the necessary financial assistance for your educational journey. It calculates the funding college students are eligible for, including scholarships, grants, federal student aid, and other financial aid sources. Let’s explore the significance of this change in federal student aid allocation:

  1. Fairness and Accuracy: The SAI aims to provide a more accurate reflection of a student’s financial need. It takes into account various factors, including family size, income, and assets. This means that your aid eligibility is based on a more comprehensive assessment of your financial situation.
  2. Standardization: The transition to SAI brings a level of standardization in the eligibility determination of financial assistance and Pell Grant Eligibility. SAI sets a more uniform and equitable standard for assessing need, gathering financial aid eligibility based on your family’s tax returns and FAFSA information.

SAI vs. EFC: What’s Changing?

How much can actually change between the SAI vs EFC? Let’s explore the key differences:

1. Calculation Method

EFC: The Expected Family Contribution was calculated based on a complex formula that considered factors such as income, assets, family size, and the number of family members in college. It was quite a puzzle.

SAI: The Student Aid Index, is calculated based on the information provided in your FAFSA, without considering your family’s number of dependents currently enrolled in college. While the determination formula remains the same (Cost of Attendance Minus Student Aid Index), the goal of the SAI is to expand federal aid eligibility to more students. This simplification is expected to make the process more straightforward and transparent.

2. Asset Assessment

EFC: One notable difference is the treatment of assets. EFC considered a family’s assets, such as savings and investments, when determining financial need. It also marked child support as income.

SAI: The new index still considers assets in its calculations. However, it now considers child support as an asset, which may reduce its impact on your financial aid determination.

3. Impact on Aid Eligibility

EFC: The EFC number was used to determine eligibility for different types of federal student aid, including Pell Grants and Direct Loans. The lower your EFC, the more aid you were eligible for.

SAI: The SAI also determines eligibility for federal student aid but in a more equitable way. By simplifying the calculation, it provides a fairer assessment of a student’s eligibility for financial aid. It also now indicates a negative financial need down to -$1500, better assessing a student’s true financial need.

The New Student Aid Index Chart and Aid Calculator

So, how does the new SAI system actually work, and what do you need to know about it?

1. FAFSA Remains Crucial

First and foremost, the FAFSA is still your golden ticket to federal student aid. To calculate your SAI, you must complete the FAFSA, providing all necessary financial information. The FAFSA will ask about your family’s income, household size, and other relevant details. Under SAI, the FAFSA has scaled down to less than half the length it used to be, making the process simpler. 

By signing up for a collegeraptor.com account and filling in your profile, you can get an estimate of your SIA. Sign up now.

2. Elimination of Enrolled Dependents

One significant change is that the FAFSA will not take into account your family’s current number of dependents enrolled in colleges or universities. This new methodology should make the application process more straightforward and provide financial aid administrators with better insight into student financial needs.

3. SAI Calculation

The SAI is calculated using a formula that primarily considers your family’s adjusted gross income (AGI) and household size. Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the SAI is determined:

  • Your family’s AGI is used as a starting point.
  • Certain income protection allowances are subtracted.
  • The remaining income is assessed based on a sliding scale.
  • Assets including savings, 529 plans, investments, rental properties, etc., but excluding the value of your primary residence and retirement accounts.
  • Household size and a dependent/student income protection allowance are factored in.
  • The resulting number is your Student Aid Index (SAI).

Your SAI is a crucial number because it helps colleges determine the level of federal student aid you’re eligible for. The lower your SAI, the more financial aid you may receive.

4. Financial Aid Packages

Colleges and universities will use your SAI to create your financial aid package. This package may include grants, scholarships, work-study opportunities, and federal student loans. The aim is to ensure that your financial aid package meets your demonstrated need.

COMPARE FINANCIAL AID OFFER LETTERS >> Financial Aid Offer Comparison Tool

The transition from the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) to the Student Aid Index (SAI) marks a significant shift in how financial aid is determined for college and career school students. The SAI system offers a simplified, standardized, and more equitable approach to assessing financial need.

The goal of this shift is to make the financial aid process more accessible and fair for all students. As you embark on your journey to higher education, be sure to complete the FAFSA accurately and on time, and stay informed about your financial aid options.

Keep in mind that SAI isn’t the only factor in determining financial aid eligibility. Colleges may also consider other factors, such as their own institutional aid programs, so it’s essential to explore all sources of financial assistance. 


It’s a new era in federal student aid, and it’s all about making your path to higher education a little smoother and more equitable. If you want to start comparing financial aid options, our Financial Aid Offer Comparison can help.