What Do FAFSA Family Contribution Codes Mean?

by Cindy Quarters
FAFSA codes provide information on school funding options.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a single application form that students and their parents can use to apply for a range of grants, loans and scholarships. About two weeks after completing the FAFSA, the student will receive his student aid report. The SAR can be tricky to read if you aren’t used to it, since it’s filled with codes relating to your expected family contribution and other application essentials.

Expected Family Contribution

The abbreviation, or code, for your expected family contribution is EFC. This is simply an easy way of designating this particular piece of information. The numbers printed next to the EFC represent the amount of money your family is expected to be able to contribute toward the student’s college education, but is not necessarily the actual amount you will pay. The school uses the EFC to decide if the student is eligible for other programs which may help lower the actual out-of-pocket cost. An asterisk by the EFC number means that you must contact the school and supply additional information, such as tax filings and income statements.

Estimates of Eligibility

The numbers showing up below your EFC are the government programs that you are qualified for based on your FAFSA information. Expect to see the name of the program, such as Pell Grant Estimate or Direct Stafford Loan Estimate, followed by some numbers. If the numbers are zeros, then the information you entered into the FAFSA did not support your eligibility for that particular type of aid. If the name of a loan or program is followed by a dollar amount, then you qualify, but your ultimate eligibility and the final amount you get are determined by your school.

Data Release Number

The data release number appears at the top of the student aid report. This is a unique number that identifies your particular SAR. You’ll need this number if you want to have your FAFSA information sent to schools other than those you initially requested. Check the SAR – the codes for the schools you’ve selected will be on it. The DRN is also important if you need to file a change of address on your FAFSA or if you find errors on any of your outstanding loans as reported on the FAFSA. Keep the DRN where you can find it if you need to make changes.

Important Information

Students and parents should keep in mind that the numbers on the SAR are not the final numbers, but estimates based on the information entered into the FAFSA using standard calculations. Individual school have their own rules that may affect the SAR estimates. Students, especially those with low EFC numbers, may also find that they are eligible for additional funds through other programs, such as state opportunity grants, that can further reduce the out-of-pocket costs for attending college.

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