In a previous post, I defined Expected Family Contribution (EFC), how it works theoretically, and what happens in the real world. For many families, the difference between theory and practice is irrelevant since their EFC (with changes to financial aid, soon to become the Student Aid Index) is much higher than their actual ability to pay. There are steps that you can take to reduce your EFC, and you should definitely do so if you have the opportunity. However, the fact is that you’re likely to do more to cut the cost of college by targeting the right schools for merit scholarships than by trying to rearrange your finances.
What is EFC? To start your college search, you need to be able to answer this question. If you’re like most parents starting the college search process, you don’t have a clue what EFC means. In fact, most parents don’t understand until they are well into the college application process which is not a good thing.
So what is EFC? EFC stands for “Expected Family Contribution” and is the term used by the Federal Government and colleges to state how much parents are expected to pay for their child’s college education. (EFC is being renamed the “Student Aid Index” for the 24-25 award year but it will still function the same as EFC.)
A college comparison spreadsheet is really the most effective way to narrow your list of colleges you want to actually apply to. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s pretty useful when trying to make the final decision on which to attend as well. It’s just that I think that by putting in a little spreadsheet grease at the beginning of the process will provide you with much more affordable choices at the end of the process. The key is to make sure that your college comparison spreadsheet contains these 5 often overlooked pieces of information that will give you some idea of how much you’ll pay for college.
Parents of sophomores need to know that their students’ college financial aid awards will be calculated on the base year that starts January 1 of the student’s sophomore year. This means that the fall semester of the student’s sophomore year will be the last chance parents have to implement some financial aid strategies that could significantly increase their student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid. Furthermore, there will be some major changes of the FAFSA starting with the 2024-25 school year that parents need to be aware of.
Troy Onink used to provide a Federal FAFSA EFC Chart until he passed away in 2018. His chart is still probably one of the most commonly found on the internet even though it’s from 2017-18. It’s still useful for its shock value. Most parents have little sense of what college is going to cost and the EFC chart is a wake-up call. Hopefully, parents who see it today will be motivated to use an EFC calculator to get an estimate for their own situation. In any case, since the table is outdated, I’ve created my own EFC chart.
Why should you care about FAFSA help? In case you haven’t heard, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for 2023-24 is available on October 1st. That means that it’s time for high school seniors to collect all their documents so they can fill out the FAFSA. Why? Because you will need to have submitted the FAFSA to be eligible for financial aid awarded by the federal government, colleges, and many states. And the sooner, the better. While filling out the FAFSA isn’t the key to great financial aid, it is a necessary step.
As the parents of college freshmen drove home from dropping their kids off at college, many had to be thinking about how they’ll do things differently next time knowing what they know now. Many were probably wishing, “if only someone had told me four years ago when we first started thinking about preparing for college that…, things would have been so much easier.” It’s a common dilemma in life, you don’t know what you don’t know. So I’ve created the following list of things that parents of high school freshmen need to know about preparing for college and how financial aid works. Let me know if you have anything to add.
We have all heard the horror stories of college graduates with staggering debt and little hope of repaying it before retiring. The obvious cause of the problem is the seemingly ever-increasing cost of college. But here’s the thing. When you read the stories about graduates struggling with student loans after graduation, you’ll almost always see that they had alternatives to the large student loans they ended up with. With the high cost of college, more than ever teens need their parents to provide financial guidance when applying to college. Unfortunately, rather than supplying a financial reality check, too many parents planning for college make the situation worse by making the following mistakes:
Recently I was profiling Saint Michael’s College in Vermont and learned about their Ski and Ride program for students. They offer various discounted passes to the Sugarbush ski resort along with a free weekend shuttle. I thought it was a pretty appealing program and did a quick web search for other colleges for skiers. I found several sites claiming their lists had some version of the best schools for skiers. They ranged in length from 10 to 30 schools. Saint Michael’s didn’t show up on a single list. Why not?