Any family starting to search for colleges, must begin the search process by understanding their EFC. No ifs, ands, or buts…what good would it be to consider and visit schools that your family can’t afford. The government and College Board have links where you can enter in all your tax information and get your EFC (Estimated Family Contribution), but Troy Onink, a college financing professional and contributor at Forbes Magazine, designed a chart that will give you an even faster idea of what your EFC is, before pulling out all your tax papers.
For the past few years, Troy Onink has had a Guide To FAFSA, CSS Profile, College Financial Aid And Expected Family Contribution at Forbes Magazine. It’s a great article that explains critical elements of the college financial aid process, but the most valuable part of the guide is the Federal EFC Quick Reference Table.
Shortcut To Finding Your EFC
Actually, for the majority of people who are learning about financial aid for the first time, the EFC chart is probably the most shocking part. Families planning on sending their kids to college should take a look at this table just to start to understand what they’re facing. Keep in mind, the EFC chart is only an estimate, and at some point it’s necessary to run your actually tax numbers to see your specific EFC (the College Board has a good EFC calculator).
Reviewing the EFC Quick Reference table below, what stands out is that families with incomes over $100,000 are basically expected to pay for the cost of attending a state public university. The reality is that families with an EFC of $20,000 or more will be expected to pay the equivalent to the tuition at a state school.
The table shows some families would qualify for some aid based on an average total cost of $28,000 for public universities. But given that public schools are even less likely to meet 100% of financial need than private schools, families with EFC’s of over $20,000 shouldn’t be counting on any help paying for a public university.
2016 EFC Quick Reference Table for College Aid Eligibility
What’s more shocking to families, their EFC or the fact that many state flagship universities are costing over $25,000.
State or Private College – How Much Will They Really End Up Costing?
Once the shock subsides, families in upper income categories need to understand it’s unlikely that even merit aid from more generous private schools will reduce their total cost below the price of their state flagship university. There are many reasons to consider sending your child to a private college, even if the tuition won’t come in less than your state college. For example, private colleges are more likely to graduate students in four years. They tend to have lower student to faculty ratios and spend more money on students in the classroom.
Private colleges can also cost at least twice as much as a public university. The question is – can the financial aid offered by private schools bring the price down enough for families to decide to pass on the public option?
For some families and some private colleges, the answer is yes. Even for families with a high enough EFC that would limit the amount of need-based aid at even private colleges, merit scholarships can dramatically drop the total price.
Many private colleges offer yearly merit scholarships of $15,000 to a significant number of students. It’s not uncommon for the most qualified students to receive $20,000 merit awards.
If you just considered a $15,000 award that a merely desirable students might receive, the cost to attend a $50,000 drops to $35,000. That’s approximately $10,000 more than the average state university. And if the student is more likely to graduate in 4-years at the private college than at the public university, families might consider the private option.
How To Find Private Colleges That Offer Merit Aid
The problem is finding those colleges most likely to offer merit scholarships. Ultimately, you’ll never know how much money a college will award until you apply. But there are ways to target schools that are more likely to provide merit money than others.
If you’d like help creating a custom list of colleges that are more likely to offer your student need and/or merit based aid, look into our custom list service. In our continued pursuit to help families make better financial choices when selecting colleges, Road2College has teamed up with DIYCollegeRankings to create a new service called College Money Search. College Money Search is a service to help families target colleges more likely to offer need or merit based financial aid. Our service is unique because it’s based on data, focused on helping families, and affordable.
A Custom College Money List provides a list of colleges most likely to offer financial aid, based on personal preferences. You provide individual preferences for geography, size, test scores, GPA, class rank, and major. We use that information, along with data from IPEDS and the Common Data Set to determine your list of most likely financial aid schools.
In addition, you can include specific schools you may be interested in getting more information about. We also provide information on state schools for your state of residence. The custom college list offers between 50- 60 schools fitting your specifications.
For each school, you will receive information on graduation rates, SAT/ACT top 75% scores, institutional grants, freshman without need receiving aid, total price, and more. This list is just the start of finding an affordable school. Our hope is that you use this list to start researching the schools in more depth and include some in the mix of schools your student applies to.
Sign up for your own Custom College Money List.
Join our Facebook group: Paying For College 101. This group is a forum for families to ask questions related to how they can pay for college. Topics can range from best ways to save for college, the financial aid process, filling out FAFSA, finding affordable schools, EFC, strategies to minimize income, CSS Profile, merit vs. need based aid, student loans, and on and on.
No Question Is Too Silly!!! Ask other members for help and in return share your knowledge and experience.