What Is EFC? How Does It Affect Financial Aid?

Learn about what EFC is and how it determines what you'll pay for your college education.

portrait of Whitney Sandoval
by Whitney Sandoval

Published September 7, 2022

Reviewed by Andy Buchanan

Our Review Network

BestColleges is committed to delivering content that is objective and accurate. We have built a network of industry professionals across healthcare and education to review our content and ensure we are providing the best information to our readers.

With their first-hand industry experience, our reviewers provide an extra step in our editing process. These experts:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Our growing Review Network currently consists of professionals in fields like business, nursing, social work, and other subject-specific industries; professionals in higher education areas such as college counseling and financial aid; and anti-bias reviewers.

Reviewers typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for BestColleges as a side project. Our reviewers are members of the Red Ventures Education Freelance Review Network and are paid for their contributions.

See a full list of our Review Network contributors.

Edited by Cameren Boatner
Share this Article
What Is EFC? How Does It Affect Financial Aid?
Image Credit: Willie B. Thomas / DigitalVision / Getty Images


Figuring out how to pay for college can be stressful. Between scholarships, grants, and financial aid, the options can become overwhelming. Different types of financial aid exist, most notably the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

How do you know if you qualify for federal forms of aid? The FAFSA uses a number called the expected family contribution (EFC), which is based on the financial information you provide. Colleges use your EFC to determine financial aid and award packages.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

What Does EFC Mean?

The information you put in your FAFSA application determines your EFC. It estimates how much your family can contribute to your college education based on the financial details you disclose.

Your EFC total should not be confused with how much you'll pay for your college education outside of financial aid. That number can differ. The EFC is a calculated total that looks at your family's taxable and non-taxable income, among other factors.

How Is EFC Calculated?

Your EFC is calculated using a specific formula. This formula looks at adjusted gross income (AGI) and other factors when determining your EFC.

How EFC Is Calculated for the FAFSA

EFC's formula uses the following:

The formula also looks at the student's income. Essentially, the EFC combines the family's expected contribution and the student's contribution to come up with a final number.

How Colleges Use EFC

Colleges use your EFC to determine your financial aid packages. You may have luck working with the financial aid office if your financial situation has changed or if you cannot afford the cost of college based on the package you received. If your parent or guardian lost their income or if your family experienced a significant increase in medical bills since you filed the FAFSA, you can also appeal your aid package.

What Does EFC Mean for Financial Aid?

When filling out your FAFSA, your EFC is one of the most important factors in how much need-based aid you can receive.

How Much You'll Receive in Financial Aid

Because your EFC estimates how much your family should be able to contribute towards your education, your EFC ultimately determines how much financial aid you can receive. The higher your EFC is, the less need-based aid you will get. Those who qualify for the most financial aid have lower EFCs.

Your Pell Grant Eligibility

EFC not only regulates your financial aid amounts — but also determines your Pell Grant eligibility. The Pell Grant was established to provide financial aid to degree-seeking undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and maintain sufficient progress in their programs. Pell Grants do not need to be repaid.

Frequently Asked Questions About EFC

What is a good EFC to have?

Your EFC estimates how much your family can contribute to your education, so the lower your EFC is, the more aid you are eligible to receive. Ideally, your EFC would accurately represent how much your family can financially help with college, but the amount you have to pay could vary drastically.

The lower the score, the more need-based aid you will receive. An EFC score of zero means your family is not projected to be able to contribute anything towards your education.

What do EFC numbers mean?

Your EFC number is the monetary amount your family is expected to contribute toward the total cost of your college education for one academic year. Using the formula, you will receive a number of zero or more.

This number is the amount the formula says you can pay. If you receive a number of 000600, the formula calculates that your family is expected to pay $600 toward your college education.

What does an EFC of 050000 mean?

If your EFC score is 050000, the calculator determined, based on the financial information provided, that your family can pay $50,000 toward your tuition and fees.

What does an EFC of 014000 mean?

An EFC score of 014000 means your family is expected to contribute $14,000 toward one year of your education.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.