After you file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that includes the expected family contribution (EFC) on the top right.
The EFC is a mysterious six-digit number, that may include leading zeros.
The EFC is not like Costco prices, where some of the digits have special significance. For example, if a Costco price ends in 97 cents, it is a discounted price, while a price that ends in 99 cents is the regular price. If the Costco price ends in 88 or 00, it is a manager markdown.
Instead, the EFC is a dollar amount. It is a measure of the family’s financial strength. It means that the federal government believes that the family can afford to contribute that amount of money toward college costs. Most families will gasp when they see how high the EFC is.
The EFC is subtracted from the college’s cost of attendance to calculate financial need and determine the amount of need-based financial aid available to the student.