Understanding “Need-Based” Financial Aid Formulas

No one pays full price for college. It’s not a rule, but between aid-based and non-aid-based funding sources, everybody should get something. Today, we’re going to tackle a complicated subject as simply as possible, how your family’s financial need is calculated.

The Financial Aid Formula

The basic formula for need-based financial aid looks like this:

COA – EFC = Need-Based Aid

Let’s start with COA (cost of attendance). The financial aid staff looks at the expenses involved in your child attending the school. This includes everything from tuition and fees to the cost of things like books, room and board, and even transportation.

Next, they determine your EFC (expected family contribution). This is the amount that they expect you to cover as a family without any assistance. The formula is established by law, so you’re going to have the same EFC regardless of who does the math. It includes household income (including untaxed income like retirement contributions), assets, and even benefits your family receives (i.e., social security or unemployment).

When the EFC is subtracted from the COA, you get the maximum amount that your family could possibly receive. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you will be offered a grant for the full amount. Some of it may be offered as loans you would have to pay back.

College Funding Tips and Assistance

For more tips and suggestions on how to fund college tuition, College Planning Source offers workshops and other planning and support services in Southern California. Contact us today by calling 858.676.0700 or by submitting the contact form on our website.

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