While preparing for college, one of the most important considerations is how to pay for it. All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because it is used to determine students’ potential eligibility for various financial aid programs, as well as various state and institutional-based aid programs. To learn more about options to pay for college, visit U-fi.com.

When completing the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide information such as your (and possibly your parents’) income, the size of your family, and how many of your family members are attending college this year. All of the information you provide will be used to determine a figure known as the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Don’t be alarmed if your calculated EFC is high. Your EFC is used by college financial aid offices to determine the amount of financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Each college sets a figure known as the Cost of Attendance. This is made up of direct costs such as tuition, fees, books, as well as room and board. It also includes other indirect costs such as transportation and other personal expenses. Colleges and universities have widely varying Costs of Attendance, but your EFC will remain the same, regardless of where you attend.

Financial aid offices use the formula below to establish your financial need, which determines if you qualify for grants and other financial aid programs:

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

The lower your EFC, the greater the likelihood that you’ll qualify for need-based financial aid.

Remember that your EFC stays the same no matter what school you attend. Although the name, “Expected Family Contribution” might give you the impression that you will have to directly contribute or pay that amount, it’s just a part of the formula used to determine your financial aid eligibility. There are other financial aid sources that can be used to fully fund your college education such as unsubsidized Direct LoansPLUS loans, private loans, and other aid programs not based on financial need. It’s best to exhaust all sources of grants and scholarships before borrowing for college. You can use a free search at Peterson’s to find available scholarship opportunities. You can also visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website to learn more about the EFC, FAFSA, and other financial aid programs.

Ron Hancock
Written By:

Ron Hancock is the Regional Director for U‑fi Student Loans and is an expert in many aspects of financial aid, student loans, and debt management. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Ron has worked in a number of areas of higher education finance, including positions in a college financial aid office, training and development for a state agency, and most recently as National Manager for Nelnet’s Partner Solutions team. Ron has spoken at numerous financial aid conferences all across the United States.

View all posts by Ron Hancock