Expected Family Contribution Calculator Help
Use the EFC Calculator to calculate your Expected Family Contribution, the amount you and family are expected to contribute to your college costs, and to estimate the amount of financial aid you might receive.
What Is the EFC?
The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is the amount you and your family are expected to be able to contribute toward the cost of attending college for a single academic year. It is calculated using a standard government formula that looks at your family's income and assets, family size, and number of family members who will be attending college. Colleges use the EFC to determine your family's "financial need," the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.
Your EFC is calculated using information you provide on the federal government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. After receiving your FAFSA, the government calculates your EFC and sends it to the colleges you have specified.
There is an assumption that your family will be able to contribute the amount specified as your EFC using current income and savings. However, this is not reality for many families, who find that they must borrow to cover their EFC.
Once colleges receive your EFC, they analyze it to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. They compare how much you are expected to contribute to how much it costs to attend the college. The annual cost of attendance, or COA, includes tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, and some personal expenses. The college doesn't calculate a separate COA for each student; it uses a figure that reflects typical costs.
The college subtracts your EFC from the COA to determine the portion of your college costs that you would be unable to cover. For example, if the college's cost of attendance is $40,000 and your family's EFC is $22,000, then your financial need is $18,000 ($40,000 - $22,000).
Some colleges are able to cover your full financial need. Other colleges can cover only a portion of your financial need. This means you will need to cover more than the amount of your EFC to attend. Plus, financial aid packages can vary greatly from college to college. Your financial aid package could include any of the following types of aid: scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study earnings. Also, some colleges ask for additional information about your finances that could affect your EFC. (See The Two Types of EFC: FM and IM below.)
You need to look closely at your financial aid package to understand your "net price." Net price is what it will really cost you to attend the college. If your financial need is $18,000, one college may offer you $16,000 in grants and a $2,000 loan, while another college may offer you a $5,000 grant and $13,000 in loans. Both colleges are offering you a financial aid package of $18,000, but you will pay more out of your pocket at the college that awards more loan aid. Once you get your EFC Calculator result, you can easily see your estimated net price at any college using the CollegeData Net Price Calculator.
The EFC Calculator is based on the same formula the federal government uses to calculate your EFC. The EFC formula is updated annually by the government. The CollegeData EFC calculation is for financial aid eligibility for the 2020-2021 academic year.
You can use the EFC Calculator to get an advance look at how much financial aid you might be eligible for. You can also learn about the types of information the FAFSA asks for. Use what you learn to your advantage. For example, if you are eligible for less aid than you were expecting, you can plan to do a more extensive scholarship search. Your family also may want to consult with a financial advisor about financial strategies that may lower your EFC.
The accuracy of your EFC estimate depends upon the accuracy of the information you enter. If you are using the EFC Calculator after you have completed your FAFSA and/or income tax forms and have them to refer to, your results will be more accurate. Students may not know many of the answers to the more detailed financial questions and will need input from parents to get a more accurate estimate. If a question asks about something you are not familiar with, in most cases that means it doesn't apply to you, so leave it blank. If you don't have current FAFSA or tax forms to refer to, give your best estimates. Your EFC result won't be as accurate, but it should be in the ballpark. The purpose of the EFC Calculator is to give you a general sense of your eligibility for financial aid to help you understand how much college may cost you. You can recalculate your EFC after you complete your tax forms or FAFSA to get a more accurate estimate.
If you are considered a dependent, you and your legal parents must answer questions to estimate your EFC. To determine which parents must answer questions for EFC purposes, refer to the following:
- If your legal parents live together, answer the parent questions about them, regardless of their gender and whether they are married to one another or not.
- If your legal parent was never married and does not live with your other legal parent, answer the questions about that parent.
- If your legal parents are divorced or separated, answer the questions about the parent you lived with more during the past 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent. If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions about that parent and your stepparent.
- If your legal parent is widowed and has not remarried, answer the questions about that parent.
If your widowed legal parent is remarried, answer the questions about that parent and your stepparent.
Grandparents or other relatives, foster parents, widowed stepparents, and legal guardians are not considered parents for EFC purposes unless they have legally adopted you.
A few of the questions have separate worksheets to assist you with a calculation. If you don't need the worksheet, you can enter the figure directly on the EFC Calculator form. If you select the worksheet link, the worksheet will open in a separate window. When you click the "Calculate" button on the worksheet, the worksheet will close and the correct figure will be calculated and transferred to the EFC Calculator form.
Additional information and instructions are available for many of the questions. Click the Help icon icon next to a question to access the relevant help information, which will appear in a separate window. To close the help window, click the "Close" button.
CollegeData respects your privacy. Because most people are very concerned about the privacy of their personal information, particularly their financial information, CollegeData does not save your answers to the individual questions in the EFC Calculator. The only figure saved permanently is your final EFC result. You may choose to temporarily save your answers during a visit. This option is helpful if you do multiple EFC calculations because you won't need to re-enter your answers except to make changes. This information will not be saved once your visit ends.
If you choose to temporarily save your answers to the individual questions in the EFC Calculator during a visit, you will have the option to navigate forward and backward within the tool pages. Select "Next" to go to the next page and "Previous" to return to the previous page. Information entered on the current page will be saved when you select "Next" or "Previous."
The CollegeData EFC Calculator calculates your EFC using the federal methodology, or FM. The FM is used to determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. Many colleges use the EFC calculated using the FM to determine your eligibility for state financial aid, as well as for other types of financial aid the college itself awards. However, some colleges, particularly private colleges, use something called the institutional methodology (IM) to determine your eligibility for private and institutional aid, which is aid that comes from sources other than the state and federal governments. The FAFSA is used to figure your EFC using the FM. To figure your EFC using the IM, many colleges require an additional form, called the CSS/PROFILE. The IM takes into account factors that the FM does not, such as the current value of your family home and, if your parents are divorced or separated, the amount both parents might be able to contribute toward your education. Because of these factors, using the IM usually raises a family's EFC. However, some colleges feel that using both the FM and IM provides a more accurate view of a family's financial circumstances.
Your EFC result is saved for easy reference, available whenever you visit CollegeData. You will find it on the first page of the EFC Calculator, on the Pay Your Way home page, and in your Data Locker Dashboard. To view your dashboard, click on the My Data Locker tab at the bottom of your browser window on any CollegeData page. Once you have your EFC result, you can use the CollegeData Net Price Calculator to understand what it might cost you to attend specific colleges.
You can recalculate your EFC any time. If you recalculate during a subsequent visit, you will need to complete the forms again because CollegeData saves only your final EFC result. CollegeData does not save your answers to the individual questions; however, you can choose to temporarily save this information during a single visit.
The EFC Calculator is based on the EFC formula published annually by the U.S. Department of Education. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the calculation is accurate, CollegeData cannot guarantee that the result you receive using the EFC Calculator will be the same as the EFC the federal government calculates using data from your FAFSA.