Eligibility can vary significantly from one college to the next simply because of the COA. At College A, the student can receive up to $40,000 in financial aid, but is only eligible for up to $10,000 at College B.

Colleges determine eligibility for need-based financial aid by subtracting the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) from the college’s Cost of Attendance (COA).

Cost of Attendance (COA):

An institution’s total cost for the academic year including direct expenses (tuition, fees and room & board) and estimated indirect expenses (books & supplies, travel, and miscellaneous or personal expenses).

Expected Family Contribution (EFC):

Calculated using information reported on the FAFSA, it’s a measure of how much the family can contribute to college expenses for one year. Colleges that require the CSS Profile or their own application in addition to the FAFSA, will use those forms to determine eligibility for institutional aid.

The Financial Aid Package

Once financial need is calculated, the college will prepare a financial aid award or package, which can include a combination of the following types of aid from federal, state and institutional sources:

Grants/Scholarships: Free money awarded based on financial need or other factors such as grades and standardized test scores.

Work Study: Helps students meet indirect college expenses, such as books and supplies, by finding a job on campus and earning money throughout the year in a regular paycheck.

Student Loans: May be offered to students and/or parents to help cover college costs. Federal Direct Loans for students are the most common, and they have fixed interest rates, flexible repayment options and no credit requirement for students.

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