How Much Will YOU Have to Pay for College?


How Much Will YOU Have to Pay for College?

Published September 14, 2019


Your child is not a senior, and you’re wondering, “Why do I need to worry about tuition costs and estimating my expected family contribution? Can’t I wait a few years?”

NO. Don’t wait!

The more information you have, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.

And talking about how much you can afford to pay for college needs to happen sooner, rather than later. It all boils down to your EFC (expected family contribution).

Your EFC is the minimum amount that colleges will expect you to pay, on a yearly basis.

If a family’s EFC is less than the cost to attend a college, the student qualifies for need-based financial aid.

How to Calculate Your EFC

This is your family’s contribution (Don’t wait! Here’s how to estimate it.)

Your EFC is calculated from the information you submit on the FAFSA and CSS forms.

There are two methodologies used to calculate EFC: Federal and Institutional.

The FAFSA uses the Federal methodology.

In addition to the FAFSA, more selective schools use information from the CSS Profile form, which uses the Institutional method.

Federal Methodology (FM)

This calculation is used to determine your EFC for need-based only federal and state grants, loans, and work study.

(Many states and colleges also use this calculation to award aid.)

Basically, the regular form of this formula takes what you and your child own (non-retirement savings only, house equity is not included) and combines it with you and your child’s adjusted gross income (from your previous year’s tax return).

The formula uses tables to determine how much of your assets and income can be used for college and factors in number of household members and number of other children in college

Institutional Method (IM)

This calculation is used to determine how much money accepted students receive from a college’s own endowment.

There are differences in the way the FM and IM are calculated, with some of the major differences being that IM includes different types of assets in their EFC calculation, such as: home equity, college savings accounts of siblings, scholarships, and assets of a non-custodial parent.

For both methods, parents are expected to contribute a maximum of 5.6% of their assets, while a student is expected to contribute 20 – 25% of their total assets towards college costs.

If you’re really interested in a detailed comparison of the two methods, the College Board gives a good summary.

Remember, with the same EFC, a student may be eligible for financial aid at one school and not at another.

A student’s eligibility is based on their EFC relative to the cost of the college: COA (cost of attendance) – EFC = Financial Need.

Here’s a simplified example (based on income only): parents have a combined income of $180,000, with three dependent children.

Under the FM their EFC is approximately $42,000. At a private, elite college costing $60,000, the student would qualify for $18,000 a year in need-based aid.

But at a state university costing $20,000 per year, the same student would not qualify for aid.

One last thing to keep in mind – colleges are not obligated to meet all your child’s financial need.

Colleges have limited financial aid budgets and tend to offer the most aid to those students who meet their specific enrollment goals (e.g. improve the women’s hockey program or the debate team).

If the college does not meet all of your child’s needs, then you have been “gapped” and you are responsible for finding sources to fill the gap.

Schools That Use the CSS Profile

American University

Amherst College

Bard College

Bates College

Baylor University

Bennington College

Bentley University

Berklee College of Music | Berklee

Boston College | BC

Boston University | BU

Bowdoin College

Brandeis University

Brown University

Bryn Mawr College

Bucknell University

California Institute of Technology | Caltech

Carleton College

Carnegie Mellon University | CMU

Case Western Reserve University

Catholic University of America | CUA

Claremont McKenna College | CMC

Clark University

Colby College

Colgate University

College of the Holy Cross | Holy Cross

College of William & Mary | William & Mary

College of Wooster

Colorado College

Columbia University

Connecticut College

Cornell University

Dartmouth College

Davidson College

Denison University

DePauw University

Dickinson College

Drexel University

Duke University

Elon University

Emerson College

Emory University

Fairfield University

Fordham University

Franklin and Marshall College | F&M

Furman University

George Washington University | GW

Georgetown University

Gettysburg College

Grinnell College

Hamilton College

Hampshire College

Harvard University

Harvey Mudd College | HMC

Haverford College

Hobart and William Smith Colleges | HWS

Ithaca College

Johns Hopkins University | JHU

Kenyon College

Lafayette College

Lawrence University

Lehigh University

Loyola University Maryland

Macalester College

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT

Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute

Mount Holyoke College

Muhlenberg College

New York University | NYU

Northeastern University

Northwestern University

Oberlin College

Occidental College

Pitzer College

Pomona College

Principia College

Providence College

Reed College

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | RPI

Rhode Island School of Design | RISD

Rhodes College

Rice University

Sacred Heart University | SHU

Santa Clara University

Scripps College

Skidmore College

Smith College

Southern Methodist University | SMU

St. Anselm College

St. Edward’s University

St. Olaf College

Stanford University

Stetson University

Stevens Institute of Technology

Stonehill College

Swarthmore College

Syracuse University

Texas Christian University | TCU

Trinity College

Trinity University

Tufts University

Tulane University

Union College (New York)

University of Chicago

University of Denver

University of Miami

University of Michigan

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | UNC

University of Notre Dame

University of Pennsylvania | UPenn

University of Richmond

University of Rochester

University of San Francisco | USF

University of Southern California | USC

University of Virginia | UVA

Vanderbilt University

Vassar College

Villanova University

Wake Forest University

Washington and Lee University

Wellesley College

Wheaton College (Massachusetts)

Whitman College

Williams College

Worcester Polytechnic Institute | WPI

Yale University

Final Words…

Don’t leave this post without finding out your family’s EFC now!

If you are interested in finding schools that will be more generous with their merit scholarship money based on your student’s stats and preferences, check out our R2C Insights tool.






*The College Board: 2012 Trends in Student Aid

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