Trying to figure out what the EFC number means? The EFC number represents the amount of money a family is expected to pay for their student’s college education. In short, your EFC determines how much federal grant money you will receive for college.
What Is a Good EFC Number?
Generally, parents misunderstand how an EFC number is used and assume that a low number is better. Government awards are generally higher for applicants with lower EFC numbers. School EFC numbers are calculated in the same way as government EFC numbers.
Federal student aid grants are determined by a number between 0 and 4617 after the schools receive your FAFSA form.
A person with an EFC number of 0 will receive the maximum amount of student aid, whereas someone with a number over 5273 will not receive any aid. Numbers and amounts awarded fluctuate annually. Your tuition and fees will be covered by more federal funds the closer you get to zero.
It is not a good EFC number if your family receives a low EFC number that is still higher than what is affordable. For example, if your EFC number is 500, you and your family may be eligible to receive financial aid to cover tuition and fees up to that amount.
While 500 is a fairly low EFC, if your family already lives on a tight budget, finding an extra $500 may seem impossible, making it a bad EFC.
Ways to Make Your EFC Number Better
A family’s EFC number is derived by taking into account the number of family members enrolled in college, parental income and assets, and student income and assets.
There is no easy way to lower your EFC number without hiding assets or engaging in illegal activity. By planning ahead, you may be able to lower your EFC slightly:
- Debt repayment
- Savings accounts should not be opened in the name of students
- Buying big ticket items before filling out the FAFSA reduces assets
- Establishing 529 college savings plans with grandparents instead of parents
- Increasing the number of family members enrolled in college, such as parents.
You can make your EFC number less burdensome if you don’t feel comfortable with those options or they don’t seem feasible.
Apply for Scholarships
Before applying for scholarships, students typically complete the FAFSA and get their EFC number. Most merit-based scholarships (including those for artistic or athletic ability) do not consider the EFC number. Suddenly, your family is only responsible for $200 if you have an EFC number of 1200 and get a scholarship for $1000 a year. Additionally, if you have an EFC number that you think you cannot afford, you can apply for need-based scholarships.
Get a Job
You may qualify for a work study job if your EFC number is below 5273. These jobs cater to students, allowing them flexible hours and time to study, but their pay is often low, and any money earned goes directly toward tuition and fees.
You can turn down a work-study job if you qualify. Alternatively, you may be able to get a job off-campus or a higher-paying position on campus and make more money than the work-study position offered. You must, however, be disciplined enough to put your earnings toward tuition and fees.
Choose a Different School
It can be difficult for students who are set on attending a certain college to make this decision. It should be noted, however, that even a low EFC number does not guarantee 100% financial aid.
In the event that federal financial aid covers a substantial portion of your school’s tuition and fees, you may be better off getting the additional funds covered by your school’s financial aid department than if you still owe thousands after applying for federal financial aid.
Work With Your EFC
As long as your family can afford to cover the difference between financial aid and tuition, there is no such thing as a bad EFC number. No matter what your EFC is, you should find other ways to pay for college besides federal grants.
Choose colleges that will cover your full financial need, or, if you have a low EFC, look for scholarships that consider your financial need before awarding it.