Expected Family Contribution

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated using the information that was reported on the FAFSA and is the amount that the family is expected to pay toward the cost of college for one academic year. A summary of the processed FAFSA data is sent to the family in the form of a Student Aid Report (SAR) and also to the college in the form of an electronic record that becomes a part of the student’s financial aid record. The college will use the calculated Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount, along with the total Cost of Education (COA) amount to determine financial aid eligibility. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount remains standard across all colleges, since it is calculated via a standard federal formula.  However, Cost of Attendance (COA) amounts will differ amongst colleges, thus the calculated financial need amount and corresponding award packages may also greatly differ between colleges.  To illustrate this point, please see the following diagram:

  College A College B College C

Cost of Attendance (COA)*

$50,200 $35,500 $15,200

Expected Family Contribution (EFC)**

$  3,120 $  3,120 $  3,120

Financial Need***

$ 47,080 $ 32,380 $ 12,080

*Sample Cost of Attendance (COA) for three different colleges.

**Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount is determined by filing the FAFSA. Colleges use the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure when determining need-based financial aid eligibility.

***Financial need is determined by subtracting the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the Cost of Attendance (COA). Need can vary greatly between colleges since the total Cost of Attendance (COA) will vary between colleges due to differing costs.

For greater detail about how financial aid is determined check out our newly published financial aid guide replete with templates, case studies and personal tracking forms ! check out Financial Aid Sense: A Practical Guide about Financial Aid and the College Financing Process.

Check out what readers are saying about the publication – Financial Aid Sense.

"Financial Aid resource guide"


Jan Marie Combs, EzineArticles Basic Author