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Parents and students often assume that they will not qualify for any type of financial aid. However, financial aid comes in many different forms - from grants (free money), to low-interest loans, to work programs.

To determine eligibility, a student and his/her family must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The completed application must be mailed to an approved federal processor. The processor will use a standard needs analysis formula to assess the family and student's income and assets. The end result is the computation of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is evaluated by each of the schools to which the student has applied. The Financial Aid Office at the school makes the final determination regarding the amount of assistance a student will receive.

Factors considered in determining EFC:

  • A contribution from the parents' income
  • A contribution from the student's income
  • A contribution from the assets of the parents and student
  • An expectation of student's summer earnings

The EFC is then deducted from the total cost of attendance. The difference between the EFC and the total cost is the student's eligibility for financial aid.



School A

School B

School C

Total Cost of Attendance




Estimated Family Contribution




Eligibility for Financial Aid




Typical College Cost Per Academic Year (9 months)





Tuition and Fees




Room and Board




Books and Supplies












A Note of Caution:

Sometimes the family and student rule out a school because of the total cost of attendance. It is important to apply to those schools where a student feels he/she will have a positive academic experience. It is also important to apply for financial assistance. Experts generally agree that students should apply to all schools regardless of cost and then make the decision where to attend after the financial aid package has been determined.