Are You Eligible for Need-Based Financial Aid?

If you’re like most families with teenage kids you want to know the answer to one very important question…

Is my kid going to get financial aid to help pay for college?

It’s the $64,000 question every parent with college bound kids wants to know.

But before you can get aid it is critical to learn the answer to this question…

How is college financial aid determined?

Here it is.

It all really comes down to this formula:

C.O.A. – E.F.C. = F.N.

What this formula stands for is…

Cost Of Attendance, minus Expected Family Contribution, equals Financial Need.

Seems pretty straightforward right?  There are a couple tricky variables with it.

Number 1 is, Cost of attendance can vary pretty wildly from school to school. The average state school is around $18,000 versus the average private college cost of $34,000.  Also, you need to make sure the cost of attendance includes all costs. I see a lot of colleges advertise their tuition without including room and board and fees, and any other spending money that should be included.

Now, the EFC or Expected  Family Contribution is the biggest variable in this formula. This number is determined by your family’s income and assets, including your child. With the income of the family as by far the biggest factor.

Here is where a lot of families get tripped. They assume their income is too high.  Without every knowing what their EFC is.  Therefore they never take the necessary steps to maximize need based for their child. This is a huge mistake.

But it can be fairly easily avoided.

Avoided by running a quick calculation.  And there are plenty of ways to find this number out. One of the easiest is to take 21% of your adjusted gross income on your 1040.  This will give you a rough estimate of what you EFC # is.   There are also EFC calculator’s that will give you a more precise number.  But the 21% method is a good start.

Let’s use an example to see how this works.

COA is  $28,000 – EFC is $21,000   (The families income is $100,000 x .21 = $21,000) =FN is $7,000

So in this particular case, the family would be potentially eligible for $7,000 of need based aid. I say potentially because not every college is created equal when it comes to dishing out need based aid. Some colleges will meet 100% of the need.  Which in this case is $7,000.  But some colleges will meet less than that.  Like maybe only 50% or $3,500.

This is where it pays to research colleges and determine before applying how strong they are in giving out need-based aid.

The other thing this formula will help you do is figure out if need based is NOT going to be a factor. So then you can focus your attention on areas ways of paying for college. Such as merit based aid, loans, and cash flow planning.


Related Articles:

Read Negotiate a Better College Financial Aid Package and learn how to pay less on college tuition.

5 Little Know Secrets to Paying for College if You Don’t Get Enough Financial Aid

What You Must Do After You Fill Out Your Child’s College Financial Aid Forms

How is Financial Aid Calculated?


Find us on Facebook! Find us on Facebook!

Increase Your SAT Scores Learn How to Increase the SAT Score... By 203 Point or More
Just tell us where to send the full report...
We'll also send you - at no charge - the College Funding Made Simple e-Course, delivered to your email inbox in 12 parts, by topic. With each part, you'll come away with valuable, actionable insights proven to help parents and students in the college admissions and funding process.

NO-SPAM PLEDGE: We believe that your personal information should stay that way. Rest assured, your email address is 100% confidential, and under no circumstance will we ever rent, sell or give away your email address outside of our own network without you specifically requesting us to do so.

Leave a comment
Your comment

Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.