There are three different factors to think about when determining the cost of college.
The sticker price is the advertised price of the school. It’s important to note that you may not have to pay the full sticker price due to financial aid and scholarships.
The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is the amount the government has determined your family is able to pay toward your tuition every year based on your family's financial information submitted in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Colleges may determine their own EFC by using additional forms like the CSS Profile, which asks for additional details about your financial situation.
Financial aid comes in a few forms: scholarships, grants, work-study opportunities, or student loans. If you qualify for financial aid, you will likely get a mix of all four—it depends on your profile, financial situation, and the college.
Scholarships can be awarded based on your academic achievements or your financial need. They do not need to be repaid but you may have to reapply for them each year or maintain a certain GPA to requalify.
Grants are similar to scholarships in that you don’t have to repay them. Grants can be given out by the federal government, your state, or the college and are based on your financial need.
Work-study is when you work during the school year, typically an on-campus job. The money that you earn will go to pay toward your tuition, so this isn’t “free money”.
Student loans are sums of money given to students in order to help pay for college now, but the student must pay it back later.
Sticker price - EFC = how much financial need you have
Just because the FAFSA says you have financial need doesn’t mean that colleges must cover all that need. Some colleges do cover it all, but other colleges can’t. Our college cost calculator helps estimate what your family will be expected to pay at each school so you can get a better understanding of costs ahead of time.
With only seven easy steps, our tuition calculator uses basic financial information, such as income and investments, to estimate your expected family contribution and financial aid at hundreds of different schools.
Want to see your cost of college? Use our free cost calculator to estimate your expected family contribution and financial aid.Get Started
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