Financial Aid can be a huge factor in your college decision making process. Uprooted Academy is here for you and has cultivated a multipart series to support you in getting the most amount of aid possible. This first part of the series will walk you through questions to ask when learning more about the financial aid available to you. Let’s get started!
Question #1: What is my Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)?
No matter how much money your family has, it is important that you complete the FAFSA to determine your Estimated Family Contribution, or EFC. This calculated number will determine how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. The formula to calculate your EFC is established by law. Your family's taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) all could be considered in the formula. Also considered are your family size and the number of family members who will attend college or career school during the year. You can reference The EFC Formula Guide, 2023-2024 here. It’s important to distinguish that your EFC does not mean that you or your family is responsible for paying this amount, and it is not the amount of financial aid that you should expect to receive.
Question #2: What is the Cost of Attendance (COA)?
Your COA is exactly what it stands for: it determines the amount of money it costs to attend a particular school. This includes tuition & fees, room & board, cost of books and supplies as well as other miscellaneous expenses. Your school will calculate this number for you.
Question #3: What is my Financial Need?
Your college will determine your financial need by using the following formula:
Cost of Attendance (COA) − Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Financial Need
Depending on the number, your financial need can open the doors for you to receive need-based aid. Need-based aid is financial aid that you can receive if you have demonstrated financial need and meet other eligibility criteria. The aid that you receive cannot exceed the number of your financial need. Schools can cover a range from 0-100%. There are even some schools that cover 100% of your financial need. You can check out this list here! It is important to remember that even if a school guarantees coverage of 100% of your financial need, you will likely receive an award package combined of scholarships, grants, loans, and work study opportunities. You will have to pay back any loans that you take out. Whatever is not covered in your financial aid package is referred to as “unmet need,” and you will be responsible for determining how to fill in that gap.
Question #5: How should I plan for the rising cost of tuition?
College does not cost what it used to cost. In fact, considering inflation, the price of attending a four-year college full time has risen 180% in the 40 years between 1980 and 2020. Though the pandemic has inspired a slight 1.7% drop in the price of attending college between 2020 and 2021, the cost of attending a four-year university is still incredibly high. The College Board reports that students are graduating with an average debt of $28,400.
These rising costs can be frustrating so it is important to plan ahead as much as possible. You can get a good idea of how much you may pay by using a Net Price Calculator. In addition to filling out the FAFSA to determine how much aid you will receive, we recommend researching and applying for scholarships. Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on a set of criteria required by the scholarship committee. This money does not need to be paid back, so apply to as many as possible! You can also begin to save money by taking advantage of your free time, if available, to work for a part-time or summer job. These savings can go towards college visits, application fees, books, supplies, tuition, or anything else you may need in the college process.
We hope that Uprooted Academy has provided some helpful strategies for you to approach your financial aid journey. We wish you the best of luck as you engage in this process! In Part 2 of the series, we discuss the difference between loan types!