Financial Aid

What is Expected Family Contribution (EFC)?

Learn about the EFC, a calculated amount reflecting the family's financial strength and their ability to absorb one year of college expenses.
Woman using laptop to learn about  Expected Family Contributions

What is the purpose of listing all of that income and asset information on the FAFSA®? The income and asset information, along with the household size and number in college, is used to determine the family's Expected Family Contribution or EFC. What exactly is the EFC? The EFC is a calculated amount reflecting the family's financial strength and their ability to absorb one year of college expenses. The EFC is calculated by imputing each family's FAFSA information into a standard formula. Colleges and universities use each student's EFC to determine the student's financial aid eligibility and then create a financial aid offer.

A few details about the EFC that are important to know:

  • The same formula is used for all families applying for federal financial aid
  • The EFC is not the amount a family will pay for college, and it is not the amount of financial aid a student will receive
  • Colleges subtract each student's EFC from the college's total cost, and then fill in all or part of the remaining difference (called the financial need or eligibility) with financial aid
  • The EFC makes no assumptions about how a family will pay for educational expenses
  • The EFC formula does not take into account a family's personal debt (i.e. credit cards, car loans, personal debt)
  • An EFC can be 0
  • If a student has already filed a FAFSA, the EFC will be listed on the upper right-hand corner of the Student Aid Report (SAR). Students just beginning the college search process who would like an EFC estimate can use MEFA's EFC Calculator. This is just an estimate but can help in planning for college expenses.
  • Many, and perhaps most, families believe the EFC is higher than the amount they can afford to pay for one year of college costs. Remember, the number is based on a standard formula used for every family

Why does this matter to you?

The EFC is not the amount that a student will receive in financial aid, but rather the figure that the college will use to determine federal financial aid eligibility and create a financial aid offer that assists in meeting one year of college costs. Understanding your EFC can help you in understanding your entire financial aid offer. If you have questions about how your EFC was calculated or if you feel that your EFC is not an accurate portrayal of your family's financial circumstances, contact the financial aid office to get clarification.

Use MEFA's EFC Calculator