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Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and Financial Need Explained

A short explanation of the relationships between your Expected Family Contribution, financial need, and Cost of Attendance.

Federal regulations require that your total student financial aid, including loans, not exceed your cost of attendance. For most students, financial aid only meets part of their financial need.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in determining the types of aid for which you are eligible.

Your cost of attendance minus your EFC equals your financial need

Once you have completed your FAFSA, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated through a formula established by federal law. The EFC formula takes into account many variables including your (and your parents' if you are a dependent student):

  • Income and assets
  • Number of people living in your household
  • Number of people in your household attending college
  • State of residence

Your EFC, which appears as a dollar amount, does not vary from school to school regardless of the actual cost of the institution you are attending. However, your financial need will vary according to each school's cost of attendance.

Related content
Cost of Attendance
Penn State Federal School Code











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