Navigating the financial aid process can be confusing and difficult, especially when trying to calculate your estimated family contribution (EFC) on your FAFSA application. Your EFC is a number that determines your eligibility to receive federal student financial aid. This number is calculated by a formula that is established by federal law, and includes your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (unemployment, Social Security, etc.), family size, and other family members who will attend college. Luckily, you don’t have to do this on your own. The US Department of Education makes a lot of great tools to help you estimate the aid you will receive.
First, if you are a high school junior scoping out colleges to attend after you graduate, you should start in January so that you can find out what the cost of attendance (COA) is for each of your prospective colleges. Depending on how much tuition and room and board is going to be, it will help you decide which colleges are worth spending time on.
So, how do you calculate your EFC? After you’ve filled out your FAFSA, this number will be available to you after the FAFSA has been fully processed. Though you are able to fill out your FAFSA between January 1st and June 30th for the same calendar year, you should file the application as soon as they are available so that you don’t miss out on any aid. You will have to fill out the FAFSA every year you attend college, so it is good to get familiar with the process.
However, if you want to estimate your EFC before filling out your FAFSA, there are many free tools online to help you do that. On the Department of Education website, they have a FAFSA4caster that will give you an estimate of your eligibility for need-based and non-need based aid, including federally subsidized and unsubsidized loans and other grants to help you pay for school.
Find out what your EFC is with a free calculator.
If you’ve been following any news about higher education lately, you’ve probably heard about Starbucks’s new initiative to pay for the college educations of its students. You can find plenty of good summaries and informational articles out there, including this one from Inside Higher Ed, this one from the Washington Post, and this one from the Seattle Times. Here’s a simple version:
1. A partnership between Starbucks and Arizona State University Online is going to pay for employees’ tuition entirely for their junior and senior years of online education.
2. The same partnership will provide financial assistance in the form of a scholarship for the first two years of college.
3. This is not a loan, and is based entirely upon employees’ continued work at Starbucks (there is a certain minimum number of hours students must work to qualify for all this) and attendance to the Arizona State University Online program specifically.
Sounds great, right? Well, it’s maybe a bit more complicated than it at first might seem.
Gail Marksjarvis of the Chicago Tribune wrote this article (which is now unfortunately closed off to most viewers on the Chicago Tribune website), stating that students should consider debt when they decide what college to attend. In the past, we’ve argued that college shouldn’t be all about the bottom line, how much money you can make versus how much money you spend. That said, though? Gail Marksjarvis is right — you should consider debt when you decide what school to go to.
While catching up on admissions news over my morning coffee yesterday and putting together our Monday link roundup for this week, I came across an interesting article on CNN Money. The article fascinated me so much that I deliberately left it out of the link roundup, as I wanted to think about it, do a little research, and then talk about it in its own separate post. This is that post, if you haven’t guessed by now. More…