Posts tagged ‘EFC’

February 25, 2014

Back to basics on understanding the Expected Financial Contribution

by Grace

In the process of determining your family’s eligibility for college financial aid, it is important to understand exactly what the Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) is, and what it is not.

Here is a good explanation from Troy Onink in Forbes.

Calculating Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

Regardless of the aid form(s) the student is required to complete and submit as part of the process of applying for financial aid, and after all of the time and information it takes to complete the form(s), it all boils down to three letters, EFC, which stands for expected family contribution. You provide your financial information on the aid forms (FAFSA and CSS Profile), submit the forms online to the processing centers for each respective form, and the information from the forms goes into the aid calculations (the Federal Methodology, Institutional Methodology and Consensus Methodology).

The output of those need analysis calculations is the student’s expected family contribution (EFC) toward the cost of college. The student’s EFC is the minimum amount the student is expected to contribute toward the cost of college. Thus, EFC represents a dollar amount. It is the “output” of the aid forms and calculations. Your data goes in and your child’s EFC comes out and goes to the colleges’ aid departments that the child asks the data to be sent to on the aid forms. All three of the EFC formulas focus primarily on the assets and income of the parents and student, family size and the number of dependent children enrolled in college in a given year to assess the family’s ability to pay for college using the income and assets that they have. And because the three formulas calculate EFC differently, it’s likely that the student’s EFC under each formula will also be different.

As a general rule, the lower the EFC the higher the financial need and therefore the higher the chance of qualifying for financial aid.

From the FAFSA site comes this clarification:

Your EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive….


February 10, 2014

Do I qualify for college financial aid?

by Grace

Troy Onink provides a handy tool for quickly estimating a family’s chances of qualifying for college financial aid using income-based EFC values.

2014 EFC Quick Reference Table for College Aid

Step 1 – Locate your income in the AGI column.

Step 2 – Find the column at the top of the table that corresponds to the number of dependent children that you have and follow that column down to the row that corresponds with your income (AGI). The intersecting number is your estimated Federal EFC based on parental income only. The estimated EFCs in the table below do not take into account your assets, or if you make contributions to qualified retirement plans or receive any form of untaxed income. All of which will increase EFC.



Colors show the chances for aid at four types of colleges.

Color Codes All of the EFCs are color coded to give you an idea of whether the student will qualify for need-based financial aid at four categories of colleges. The color coded EFCs in the table are based on national average costs and your income only. If your (income-only) EFC is BLUE – then your child should qualify for need-based aid at two-year public colleges; GREEN – would qualify at four-year public colleges (in-state tuition); YELLOW – would qualify at average four-year private colleges; ORANGE – would qualify at four-year elite private colleges, such as the Ivy League colleges and other highly selective and well-known universities; RED – would not qualify for need-based aid at any colleges or universities.

As the colors indicate, families with incomes in the range of $250,000 could qualify for need-based aid at some of the most expensive private universities but not at state schools.


November 12, 2013

This proposal to pay for college would make it too easy to cheat the system

by Grace

Among the Creative Solutions to Pay for College proposed by sociology professors Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong is a radical change in defining the notorious Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  This idea has some merit, but would it let slacker parents slough off their financial responsibilities?

2. Use different measures of dependency. Need-based student aid and loan amounts are typically calculated using the federal government’s estimate for “expected family contribution” — which may not bear any relation to the parental assistance students actually receive. Undergraduate students are considered dependents unless they have children or are: over 23, married, a member of the military, an orphan, a ward of the court, an emancipated minor, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Dependents must report parental income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is considered in calculating the expected family contribution. This poses a severe hardship for students who are financially independent. A measurement based on student reports of actual expected contributions would alleviate this burden. Given the financial constraints families face, there would be temptation to game the system. However, students and parents could sign a legally binding document stating their financial relationship (if any), and proof may be required to show financial independence through individual earnings in the first year of college.

This proposal addresses the frustrations felt by those unlucky students whose parents, even if they could afford it, will not financially support their children’s college education.  Yet for purposes of qualifying for financial aid, these students are stuck unless they fit into one of the narrow categories listed above.  For example, in cases of deadbeat dads, middle-income families deep in debt, or prosperous but anti-education parents, the children may not qualify for aid under current rules.  Often these children are essentially self-supporting, but cannot be considered independent in the application process.

Too many opportunities to game the system

While this idea seems reasonable in some respects, it also seems ripe for abuse.  Legal documents and tax records may screen out some would-be moochers, but loopholes would allow many to qualify for money.  Business owners in particular could easily set their kids up with “jobs” that would make them appear self-supporting.  And it’s easy to imagine a scenario where a “financially independent” student would regularly receive generous cash gifts and other  goodies from his parents while remaining eligible to receive financial aid.

No thanks.  The rules as they stand are onerous and imperfect, but I don’t believe the suggested solution is a better option.

Related:  Why does the EFC come as a shock to many parents? (Cost of College)

November 26, 2012

The fiscal cliff – higher taxes may not be so bad if you’re seeking college financial aid

by Grace

Politicians may be close to a deal that will avoid the dreaded fiscal cliff, thereby averting a $450 billion tax increase that would affect most American households.  However, if we find ourselves tumbling over the edge of that cliff on January 1, there is at least one possible silver lining for parents of college students.

Higher Taxes Can Increase Your Child’s College Aid Eligibility

Paying higher taxes can actually increase your child’s eligibility for need-based college financial aid. The reason is that in the formulas used to determine a student’s need for financial aid, federal, state and FICA taxes that parents and students pay get subtracted from their respective incomes. The more taxes you pay, the less income the formulas determine you’ll have available after taxes to contribute toward the cost of college. Depending on the cost of the colleges your child is considering, the child’s aid eligibility may go up because the child’s expected contribution will go down as the result of you paying more in taxes.

The Fiscal Cliff and Need-Based Aid Eligibility

Colleges determine your child’s eligibility for need-based aid by subtracting the amount you are expected to contribute toward the cost of attendance (cost of attendance – expected family contribution = need). The more taxes you pay, the lower your child’s expected family contribution (EFC). At colleges where the overall cost of attendance is higher than your child’s EFC, the child will qualify for need-based aid. If you end up paying more in taxes if we go over the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” when the Bush-era tax cuts expire this December 31st, then your child’s EFC will go down and aid eligibility at the colleges where your child qualifies for need-based aid will go up.

A simple rule of thumb is that your child’s EFC will drop by about 47% of every dollar you pay in additional taxes on the same amount of income.

Higher taxes may not be so bad if you’re seeking college financial aid, but they can be tough on  long-run economic growth.

Related:  How Would the Fiscal Cliff Affect Typical Families in Each State? (Tax Foundation)

February 27, 2012

Reminder – automatic zero EFC maximum income DROPPED TO $23,000

by Grace

Last month Congress made it harder to qualify for an automatic zero EFC by reducing the maximum income allowed from $32,000 to $23,000 for the 2012-13 Award Year.  A zero EFC usually makes a family eligible for the highest amount of financial aid.

This significant change seemed to have stayed mainly under the radar, even though it will hit low-income families hard since over 4 million students qualify for the automatic zero provision this year.   Perhaps some provisions of President Obama’s 2012 “Blueprint for Keeping College Affordable and Within Reach for All Americans” will counteract this benefit cut to poor families.

Here are more details about how dependent students can qualify for the automatic zero EFC, updated from last year’s post.

For the 2012-2013 school year, a dependent student automatically qualifies for a zero EFC if both (1) and (2) … are true.

1) Anyone included in the parents’ household size (as defined on the FAFSA) received benefits during 2010 or 2011 from any of the designated means-tested Federal benefit programs: the SSI Program, the Food Stamp Program9, the Free and Reduced Price School Lunch Program, the TANF Program, and WIC; OR
The student’s parents:
• filed or were eligible to file a 2011 IRS Form 1040A or 1040EZ11,
• filed a 2011 IRS Form 1040 but were not required to do so, or
• were not required to file any income tax return; OR
the student’s parent is a dislocated worker.


(2) The 2011 income of the student’s parents is $23,000 or less.
• For tax filers, use the parents’ adjusted gross income from the tax return to determine if income is $23,000 or less.
• For non-tax filers, use the income shown on the 2011 W-2 forms of both parents (plus any other earnings from work not included on the W-2s) to determine if income is $23,000 or less.

Federal Pell Grant Program of the Higher Education Act – Background, Recent Changes, and Current Legislative Issues  (pages 20 & 22)

Related:  Congress curtails Pell Grants and federal loan grace period 

December 7, 2011

Do you qualify for the automatic zero EFC loophole?

by Grace

In determining eligibility for college financial aid, the lower your Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) the better position you’ll be in to receive money.  Even better than a low EFC is one that equals ZERO.

Some families can qualify for the automatic zero EFC “loophole” when completing the FAFSA, landing them in an ideal position for maximum benefits.  How do you qualify?  One common way is if your household Adjusted Gross Income is $31,000 or less and if you are eligible either to file the short tax form or no form at all.  Here are full details.

For the 2011-2012 school year, a dependent student automatically qualifies for a zero EFC if both (1) and (2) … are true.

(1) Anyone included in the parents’ household size (as defined on the FAFSA) received benefits during 2009 or 2010 from any of the designated means-tested Federal benefit programs: the SSI Program, the Food Stamp Program11, the Free and Reduced Price School Lunch Program, the TANF Program12, and WIC; OR
the student’s parents filed or were eligible to file a 2010 IRS Form 1040A or 1040EZ, they filed a 2010 Form 1040 but were not required to do so, or the parents were not required to file any income tax return; OR
the student’s parent is a dislocated worker.


(2) The 2010 income of the student’s parents is $31,000 or less.
• For tax filers, use the parents’ adjusted gross income from 2010 Form 1040A or 1040EZ to determine if income is $31,000 or less.
• For non-tax filers, use the income shown on the 2010 W-2 forms of both parents (plus any other earnings from work not included on the W-2s) to determine if income is $31,000 or less.

Details that apply to independent students, along with other information about the EFC formula, can be found in THE EFC FORMULA, 2011-2012 document.

November 9, 2011

Why does the EFC come as a shock to many parents?

by Grace

Parents who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are often shocked by how much the federal government thinks they can afford to pay for college when they receive their official “Expected Family Contribution,” or EFC.

According to Kim Clark at USNews Education, some fundamental aspects of the federal formula for calculating the affordability of college are the reason for the shock.

1. Outdated budget estimates. The Education Department bases its estimate of what families can afford today on a government budget for a “family maintaining a lower standard of living” in 1967. That budget has been adjusted for inflation every year. But it has not been adjusted for changes in family spending patterns. During the 1960s, fewer wives worked, for example, so families spent much less on child care. The antiquated budget also can’t account for modern technological expenses such as cell phones, computers, or internet access.

2. No regional adjustments. The government doesn’t account for the different costs of living in different cities. The Council for Community and Economic Research, which produces widely used data for tracking cost of living, estimates that living in New York City, for example, costs more than twice as much than living in, say, Pueblo, Colo. Yet the federal government assumes Brooklyn, N.Y., families paying, say, $2,000 a month for a three-bedroom apartment can afford to spend as much on college as similar families with comparable income paying only $1,000 for a similar home in lower-cost communities.

3. Unrealistic family spending assumptions. The government’s formula doesn’t make any accommodation for parents whose disposable income is reduced because of their own student loan bills, even though a growing number of parents are still paying off their own student loans as their kids enter college.

These policies mean the EFC is “at best, a very harsh assessment of families’ ability to pay,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of At worst, he says, it is “somewhat unrealistic…and archaic.”

October 19, 2011

Some basics on how colleges use financial need in admissions decisions

by Grace

Here are some terms used to describe the ways in which colleges may incorporate student financial need into admissions decisions.  This generalized information can serve as an introduction to a topic that comprises many shades of gray and is often confusing to families.

NEED-BLIND ADMISSIONS  —  Students are evaluated and admitted without regard to their financial need.  Virtually all public schools fall into this category and many private schools are mostly need-blind, but may use financial need to decide the fate of  borderline, wait-listed, international, or transfer students.  Additionally, this explanation by Mark Kantrowitz shows how the waters can be muddied by a school’s preference for wealthy students.

Need-blind admissions also doesn’t mean that the admissions is wealth-blind. A college might ignore financial need for low-income students, but then grant an admissions preference for high-income students. Most colleges define need-blind as meaning that financial need has no role in the decision to deny admission to low-income students. As such, financial need is not treated as a negative characteristic for low-income students. But colleges can treat a lack of financial need as a positive characteristic for high-income students and still consider themselves to be need-blind. For example, some need-blind colleges will admit full-pay but borderline candidates or grant wealthier students more attractive financial aid packages.

NEED-AWARE, NEED-SENSITIVE, OR RESOURCE-AWARE ADMISSIONS  —  A student’s financial need is typically considered in the school’s acceptance decision.  Enrollment management techniques are employed as a way to make sure the student body generates a sufficient  level of income for the school.  If you can pay your own way you are more attractive than a needy applicant, at least on that basis.  Consequently, a student who does not need financial aid may have an edge in getting accepted over an otherwise equally qualified student.  (“Need-aware” and similar terms are increasingly being used to describe many colleges that self-identify as “need-blind”, in the belief that only schools that ignore financial factors for ALL applicants are truly need-blind.)

FULL-NEED SCHOOL  —  One that claims to meet the student’s full financial needs, defined as the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  It is worth noting that many families are surprised to learn that the school’s determination of financial need is often lower than the family’s own assessment.  Also, the school may decide that a loan “award” will be used to meet all or part of the student’s need.

GAP STUDENT  —  Student whose financial needs are not fully met by the college.  The gap student is at higher risk for dropping out.

ADMIT-DENY ADMISSIONS  —  What “need-blind” actually means to a student unable to afford the college to which he was admitted.  If the school offers insufficient financial aid to cover the gap between the COA and the EFC, the student is effectively “denied” admission.

August 1, 2011

Your retirement savings are not included in determining EFC

by Grace

Your 401k plans, IRAs, Keoghs and other qualified retirement savings are excluded when your Expected Financial Contribution* (EFC) is calculated using either FAFSA or PROFILE methods.

Saving for your retirement should be an important priority, and it makes sense that this portion of your financial pie is not “supposed to” pay for your child’s education.  In reality, many parents end up dipping into retirement savings to help pay for college.

* Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is how much money your family is expected to contribute to your college education for one year.
Typically, the lower your EFC, the more financial aid you will receive. Factors such as family size, number of family members in college, family savings, and current earnings (information you provide on the FAFSA) are used to calculate this figure.

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