Thinking About How To Pay For College? You Must See This EFC Chart!

EFC Kitten me copy

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 (Expected 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.


2017 – 2018 EFC Quick Reference Table for College Aid Eligibility

EFC Chart


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.


Related Articles:

2017 Guide To College Financial Aid, The FAFSA, and CSS Profile 

“Follow The Money” To Find More Generous Colleges


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. 


It’s vital to choose a generous school to help keep college costs low. If you’re still reviewing schools, find out which ones are best for your family with our merit scholarship toolkit today!




Frequently Asked Financial Aid Questions


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.



  1. […] recently posted an article on a chart that gives parents a quick look at what their EFC might be based on their adjusted gross income. The flood of comments should be a warning to parents […]

  2. I have a question that I’ve never seen addressed. My ex-husband is not in my child’s life. He has already previously stated he will not help with the costs of college. Will I have to use his income, which I have no idea about, in the calculations?

    • In most cases, when parents are divorced, the income from the custodial parent is what is used to determine financial aid. Some schools are the exception and do ask for financial information from the non-custodial parent. You’ll need to ask the colleges your child is looking at if they will be asking for non-custodial finances. But in your case, if the father refuses to comply, you may be able to ask the college to remove this requirement. It will be up to the college and your circumstances.

  3. Is the EFC based on total income or AGI? Thank you!

  4. […] Thinking About How To Pay For College? You Must See This Chart Of EFCs!] […]

  5. […] Thinking About How To Pay For College? You Must See This Chart! […]

  6. […] are expected to contribute to college after filling out the FAFSA, so Troy Onink has put together a quick reference table based on your household income and number of dependent children. Take 1 min to scroll down the few […]


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