Is Your EFC Too High?

Is your EFC too high?

I have been hearing from families of high school seniors who have calculated their preliminary EFC or Expected Family Contribution and are now panicking. They can’t believe how high their EFC is.

Your EFC can provide a decent idea of what a college will assume you could pay for one year of college. If you aren’t sure what an EFC is, here are some of my previous college blog posts on the subject:

What Is Your EFC?

Maximizing Financial Aid Awards

There usually is a reason why a family’s EFC is high even if initially it seems puzzling.

I was talking to a mom from Northern California last week, for instance, who is a massage therapist and her husband makes an average salary. They owe more on their home than it’s worth and they don’t have lots of money in the bank.

Knowing all this, it seemed bizarre that the family’s EFC was in the $40,000’s. The EFC, however, made sense when the mom mentioned that she and her husband own a rental property that’s got $500,000 in equity.

Up until now the family’s high EFC didn’t hurt because their son, who attends St. John’s University, has received athletic and merit scholarships from the school. The mom, however, is now stressing because their daughter is a high school senior and they can’t afford to pay full price for their daughter, who would love to attend a college outside California.

The Good News

I told the mom that her EFC would drop with two children in school simultaneously. If both children attended schools that just use the FAFSA, The EFC for each child would drop by half. So if the previous EFC was $48,000 for her son, with two in school the EFC for each child would be $24,000.

With that sort of EFC, the family could qualify for need-based aid for their daughter from expensive private colleges. Mostly likely, the parents would have to pay $24,000, but they could end up with $25,000 or more in need-based aid from expensive private colleges.

When the son graduates, however, the family’s EFC will rise again so it makes sense for the girl to look for schools that would also give her merit aid, which she can hold onto no matter what her EFC is.

More on EFCS

In my next post, I’m going to keep writing about Expected Family Contributions.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.

Let's Connect

Leave a Reply

    1. Hi OB,

      Your Expected Family Contribution is $12,210. That means that at a minimum, a school will expect you to contribute at least this much for one year of college. Most schools will require more than that contribution, but at least this gives you a starting place.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  1. We just found out that our EFC is $108,000 (split among twins). That number is about 40% of our annual GROSS income. I called the Financial Aid department of one of the girls’ colleges and was told to not think of it as a dollar amount… even though it’s clearly used as a dollar amount in the COA – EFC = NEED calculation. Then I was told that we have probably been good about managing our money.

    It frustrates me that because we spend within our means and have saved for the girls’ college, we are frighteningly ineligible for need-based aid. And now our two will be forced to go to an in-state school which does not match their academic desires. What a ridiculous system.

  2. Our EFC is higher than the annual cost of the schools our daughter is accepted in. Never the less she is going to attend the school that gives her the most merit scholarships, because she deserves them. She is extremely smart, giving, loving and very social person, and any school should be happy to have her as a student. The only dilemma I have is if the high EFC will reduce her chances for merit aid. Can we just skip and not file for financial aid?

    1. You can skip applying for financial aid, but I would advise against it. If it’s an elite school (such as Ivies and other schools at the very top of U.S. News’ college rankings), the need-based aid is often excellent and these schools do not give merit scholarships. At these schools you can make $200,000 a year and still qualify for need-based aid. You could make well over $350,000 and qualify for need-based aid with 2 children in college at the most elite schools.

      Lynn O.

  3. We got an interesting insight on the two kids in college issue during a visit with financial aid at Oxy this spring. We were concerned because our daughters are just one year apart in school. The aid officer eased our fears by indicating that Oxy would expect half of the EFC the next year, assuming both kids were at similar schools. But, she indicated this is not true for all schools – even those with generous financial aid. She had worked at Pomona before Oxy. Apparently Pomona’s position is that it expects 60 percent of EFC if you have two in college – meaning that you either must convince the other school to take 40 percent or you must come up with 110 percent of your EFC. So, this is a question worth asking if you expect to have two kids in college at the same time, and even if your kids are looking at schools that generally offer good aid packages.

  4. That is not our current case. We had one in college last year and the EFC was 15,000 and now this year with two in college our EFC is 11,000 for child #1 and $10,000 for #2. This is a big surprise to us as everyone is telling us it will be cheaper so… why it is more? Went from $15,000 to $21,000. Our income had not changed – actually income was less this year and we have no extra like a $500,000 rental property, no stocks, no trust, no money in the bank, etc… – only 1 401K and it is pretty equal to last years numbers so… can you explain this to me?? Thus far we have not seen ANY real benefit of having two in college at the same time.

    1. If your income stayed the same and nothing else changed, I’d suggest that you made a mistake on the FAFSA. I’d go over it carefully because your EFC should drop by roughly half. You can also ask questions through the FAFSA hotline.

      Good luck.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. Thanks for this info, Lynne. You mention schools “that just use the FAFSA.” Does the CSS profile form generally calculate an even higher EFC?