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What is the student aid index (SAI)?

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Learn how your “Student Aid Index (SAI)” is calculated and how it impacts your financial aid.

After you complete and submit the FASFA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you will receive your “Student Aid Index” (SAI). Here’s why the SAI is important and how it affects your financial aid.


Your SAI is an index that colleges use to calculate your eligibility for scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and other financial aid. Your SAI is determined by the information you provide on the FAFSA. Prior to 2024, the Student Aid Index was called the “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC).

Colleges subtract your SAI from their cost of attendance (COA) to calculate your financial need which, in turn, determines the amount and types of financial aid you are eligible for. For example, at a college with a COA of $60,000, a student with an SAI of 20,000 might be eligible for up to $40,000 in financial aid. At a college with a COA of $30,000, that same student might qualify for only $10,000 in financial aid.

How Your sai is calculated

To calculate your SAI, the government assesses your and your family's income and assets as reported in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The formula considers your and your family’s financial information from the previous two years, including adjusted gross income, taxes paid, assets and benefits received (such as unemployment or Social Security), and other factors such as the age of the oldest parent.

The lower your SAI, the more financial aid you will be eligible to receive. A student’s SAI can be as low as negative 1500 (-1500).The formula also qualifies students for federal Pell Grants based on their family size and income. After students complete their FAFSA forms, they will receive information about their Pell Grant eligibility along with their SAI.


It’s important to remember that your SAI is not how much you and your family will be expected to pay for college – it’s just a factor that helps colleges determine how much financial aid you may need. It’s also important to remember that many colleges do not meet 100 percent of students’ financial need. Depending on the college’s financial aid policies, it may cover only a percentage of your financial need or cover it with loans (which you must pay back).

Your real cost to attend college — called your “net price“ — includes any financial need that your college doesn't cover, and any financial aid you receive in the form of loans or earnings from work-study.

Understanding what your SAI means and how financial aid officers use it will help you make a more informed — and possibly more affordable — college choice.

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