How To Determine Your EFC

In my last blog, I talked about why it’s important to know what your EFC or Expected Family Contribution is. Here is the post:

What Is Your Expected Family Contribution?

Today, I’m going to show you how you can get a preliminary EFC, which is not as tough as you might assume. You just need to use an online EFC calculator. Here are two popular ones:
College Board’s EFC Calculator
FinAid’s EFC Calculator (FinAid’s EFC calculator uses older 2008-09 figures.)

For those who don’t want to paw through their old tax returns, FinAid also has a Quick EFC Calculator.
Here is the sort of information that you will need to use the EFC calculators:

  • Number of people in household
  • Marital status of parents.
  • Age of children.
  • Number of children in college.
  • Adjusted gross income for most recent calendar year.
  • Income taxes paid for most recent calendar year.
  • Non-retirement investments.
  • Business equity.

The EFC calculators use two different methodologies — federal and institutional. About 270 private colleges use the institutional methodology, which means students applying to these schools will have to fill out the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. The schools using the institutional methodology are going to delve more deeply into your finances.
Here are some examples of Expected Family Contributions that I  generated using the Quick EFC Calculator:

Family No. 1:

  • Oldest parent 55
  • Number in household: 4
  • Number of children in college: 1
  • Student income: $2,000
  • Parent income: $120,000
  • Parent taxable (not retirement) assets:  $60,000

EFC: $24,028.

If the school cost around $24,000 or less, the family would receive zero need-based financial aid. On the other hand, if the college cost more than that, there is a chance the student would receive need-based aid.
If  the child will be attending a college priced at $52,000, the teenager could be eligible for up to $28,000 in financial aid.
You should definitely not assume that you will only have to pay your EFC figure for a year of college. In most cases, families will face a bigger bill, but the more desirable the teenage applicant is to a particular college, the more likely a family will pay closer to their EFC.

Family No. 2:

The figures are identical for the second family except that there will be two children in college at the same time. Having two children in school will cut the EFC in about half for families filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

New EFC: $12,634 for each child.

Family No. 3:

Here’s one more example of a family with much higher income and assets:

  • Oldest parent 55
  • Number in household: 4
  • Number of children in college: 1
  • Student income: $3,000
  • Parent income: $200,000
  • Parent taxable (not retirement) assets:  $125,000

EFC: $52,803

With such a high EFC, this family would want to look for schools that award merit aid (non-need-based aid) to wealthy students. Luckily for this family, most colleges and universities give merit scholarships to rich students.
More from The College Solution:
Financial Aid and Divorce
5 Ways to Increase Your Financial Aid Award
Where Most Students End Up Attending College
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for and US News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter.

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