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These numbers have a huge impact on your financial aid offer

Graduation Cap on top of a stack of quarters and bills.

November 3, 2022

Whether you love or hate math problems, figuring out the amount of money you’ll need for college can be overwhelming.

Knowing what you might receive in financial aid can help you determine how much money you will need for your educational expenses. If you don’t receive enough financial aid, you may have to use savings, seek outside scholarships, or apply for student loans.

Although there are a lot of factors that impact the amount of financial aid you will receive, the two numbers that you want to consider are the Cost of Attendance (COA) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

Cost of Attendance (COA) - The COA is the amount it will cost a student to attend a postsecondary institution. This amount includes the tuition, fees, books, housing, living expenses and it may include transportation and equipment. The financial aid office calculates the cost of attendance, but you can estimate it by looking at an institution’s net price calculator on the school’s website or using the College Scorecard website.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) - The EFC is included on the Student Aid Report, received after a student completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The EFC is calculated based on the information provided on the FAFSA and a federal formula and is the amount that a family can reasonably be expected to pay for a student’s education.

If you subtract your EFC from the COA, the remaining amount is your “financial need.” The institution’s financial aid office will prepare a financial aid offer and try to cover your financial need with federal, state, and institutional funds. In addition, you could receive some non-need based aid or merit-based aid, such as scholarships.

If you enjoy math, you can estimate your potential financial aid by hand, or you can use the Department of Education’s Financial Aid Estimator.