EFC is the Expected Family Contribution. It is a number that is generated by the information on your FAFSA, and it is used by colleges to determine eligibility for grants and other need-based aid. It is NOT the amount that your family is expected to pay to the college. It is the amount you would need to contribute toward your total Cost of Attendance before you would be eligible for need based aid like grants and subsidized loans. The Cost of Attendance (COA) includes the school's direct charges (tuition, fees, room and meal plan) but also indirect costs that you might have such as transportation, books, or off campus living expenses. When determining your eligibility for need-based financial aid, the school will subtract your EFC from the COA and the resulting number if called your "financial need". The school can then award need based aid up to that number. Keep in mind that, although the school could award that much, most schools don't have the resources to meet the full financial need of every student, so typically they will cover part, but not all, of it. Your EFC remains the same no matter which school you choose, but the COA will be different with each one. So, your financial need and eligibility for need-based aid will be different at each school. For example, say you have an EFC of 15,000. School A is a community college with a COA of $12,000. School B is a private college that has a COA of $50,000. At school A, you wouldn't have any financial need because your EFC is more than the COA. But at school B, you would have financial need because your EFC is less than the COA. So, at school A, you would probably only qualify for an unsubsidized loan. But at school B, you might qualify for some grants, scholarships, work-study funding or a subsidized loan.