What Is the Expected Family Contribution?

The Expected Family Contribution is used to determine how much college financial aid you qualify for.

683895296

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is an estimate of the amount of money that your family can contribute toward your college education. It's a crucial component in determining the total of any federal financial aid you'll receive to help pay for college.

How is the EFC calculated?

The EFC is calculated using the information from the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. It factors in your parents’ income, investments and other assets, as well as the number of people in your family and whether any of them are also attending college that year. You’ll see your EFC listed in the upper right corner of your Student Aid Report, as long as your FAFSA was completed in full.

The EFC is calculated using the information from the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Why does your EFC matter?

A college’s financial aid staff uses your EFC to determine your financial need. They take the school’s total cost of attendance, including tuition, fees and room and board, then subtract your EFC to calculate the maximum amount of need-based aid you’re eligible for.

Say, for example, a school’s total cost of attendance is $20,000 and your EFC is $4,000. You could qualify for up to $16,000 of need-based aid through programs like federal Pell Grants, direct subsidized loans and work-study.

The amount you receive depends on funding availability at your school. For example, Pell Grant and work-study programs each have limited funds available every year, so you might not get the full amount you qualify for if you apply late in the FAFSA season. Colleges aren’t required to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated financial need (that’s the total cost minus your EFC).

If you don't get enough financial aid, schools often suggest filling that gap with aid that's not based on financial need, such as direct unsubsidized loans and federal PLUS loans.

Find ways to save with NerdWallet

Really get to know your money and find cash you can put aside and grow.