Financial “need” is determined by a simple formula. Colleges will calculate a student's Cost of Attendance (COA) and then subtract the student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is determined by their completion of the FAFSA. The remaining amount is considered a student's “need.”

Cost of Attendance (COA)
Expected Family Contribution (EFC)
= Financial Need


A student's Cost of Attendance (COA) is determined by their school and includes: tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other school related expenses such as personal expenses.


The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the measurement of a student's family's financial strength used to determine the types and amounts of financial aid for which they may be eligible to receive.


Aid Estimator (previously FAFSA4caster) is a free online tool that provides students and their families with an estimate of their federal student aid eligibility by instantly calculating their EFC. Remember, this is not the official application for federal student aid.


University A                          University B

COA $16,500                          COA $8,000

—  EFC $2,000                        EFC $2,000

Need $14,500                        Need $6,000