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Paying For College - Head Matters


7. After the FAFSA

b. The financial aid formula

Schools use the SAR to determine how much financial aid you will be awarded. They take into consideration the full Cost of Attendance (COA) at their school , which includes tuition as well as books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and other personal expenses. They subtract the amount that your family is expected to contribute – based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – and what’s left is your level of need. Schools do their best to provide financial aid to meet your level of need. The formula looks like this: 


-  EFC


Your EFC will stay the same from school to school, so your level of need will increase at pricier schools, and so, too, may the amount you’re awarded. Check out this example:

Erin hasn’t decided where to go to school and is looking at her local community college, a four-year state school and a private school. Her parents have told her that the private school is out of their price range, but if Erin waits until she received the award notifications, she may find that her family’s out of pocket is the same at all three colleges. That’s because, while cost of attendance changes at each school, Erin’s EFC stays the same. Therefore, the higher-cost school is trying to fill the gap of Erin’s need. Check out the table below:

   Community College  Four Year Public  Four Year Private
 COA (Variable)  $10,000 $20,000  $40,000 
 EFC (Fixed)  $10,000  $10,000  $10,000
 Need (Variable)  $0  $10,000  $30,000
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