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What % of income is normal for EFC?

NabianNabian Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
WARNING: This is a long post that I wrote when I was a little emotional. If you want a quicker look, read the first line and the 4th and 6th paragraphs, or scroll down for a TL;DR. (For all you parents, that's "too long; didn't read"). Thanks for taking a look at this.

My family's income is technically ~$200,000.

My mom's income is about $65k-$70k of that, and we use her income for food, clothes, etc. --no savings whatsoever except what comes out of her check beforehand.
My dad's is about $120k-$125k and he pays the bills, puts stuff into savings, etc. etc. After taxes and everything taken out of his check beforehand, his actual salary ends up about $75k-$80k (I think; I could be wrong on that).

We are a family of 6, but I am the youngest. My sister is 26, my brother is 28, and my oldest brother is 30. My sister and brother live at home, and my other brother has a house nearby. So, although they've all graduated from college, they all still eat at home frequently and my parents obviously still pay for a lot as far as room&board and food for my other 2 siblings.

We don't live extravagantly. We never ever go on big vacations, and we don't buy top-of-the-line $60 shirts/pants (at least I don't) or anything like that. I didn't know much about what my parents made before the college financial aid process and I was honestly surprised to see that number, because we are by no means rich out the you-know-what and I don't ask for much. I go to a private high school with tuition of $15k a year and from what I little I can tell, it seems like my parents definitely sacrifice at least a little to put me there and still keep life at home the same.

When I filled out the FAFSA, it said our EFC was something like $53k. My dad's not very good with computers so I'm not sure he saw/understood that, and I didn't want him to see it at the time because that was incredibly disheartening to me. I knew we weren't going to be able to pay that. I just filled out the FA calculator/estimator for Notre Dame (my first choice by miles) in just a few minutes using whatever I could remember just to see what it would say, and it said we should expect a gap of $41k after scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans.

When I was filling out the CSS Profile for the CollegeBoard, I asked my dad what he thought they would be able to contribute per year towards my college education. He said probably the same as what they're giving now--$15k, maybe a little more. With what we have, I think that's a fair amount, and from everything I've seen, that's about what I think my family should/could contribute. This has me freaking out. There's no way in heck my parents could or would pay $40k/year for college, and DEFINITELY no way they'd let me/themselves take on that immense amount of debt.

What the heck am I supposed to do? Maybe I'm just stuck up and snobbish about this, but I don't see how (even if our income really WAS $200k) our EFC could be 25 PERCENT of that. That's UNREAL to me. I just read a thread where someone said a family with an income of $50k should have an EFC something like $3k. Doesn't that mean if FAFSA says our income is $200k, our EFC should be something around $12k-$20k? I don't know what I'm going to do. I got into the 3 schools I applied to, and honestly as much as I'm okay with the other two schools, I would ONLY consider going to them if Notre Dame was not an option. But right now things are looking like that might be the case. I should get my financial aid award letter back from Notre Dame sometime in April--we got our tax returns in pretty late and didn't send off IDOC stuff until late March. Please help a worried soul.

TL;DR :: Family income is $160k-$200k range, but FAFSA said our EFC is $53k. Is 25% income normal for an EFC? FA estimator for ND (online, not official) says the infamous "gap" is ~$41k. What do I do?
Post edited by Nabian on

Replies to: What % of income is normal for EFC?

  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom Registered User Posts: 8,814 Senior Member
    25% is normal. For incomes as high as your family's 33% is more typical.

    Given your family's income, it's extremely unlikely you will receive any need-based from Notre Dame or any other college.

    You will not qualify for any federal grant aid, but will be eligible for federal Stafford loans in the amount of $5500 for your freshman year.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    From personal experience, if your family income is $40,000 - $60,000, EFC is around 1/4 of income, depending on number of children & assets.
    For incomes of $80,000- & above, 1/3 is common.

    Are your siblings working? In school? Do they count as dependents on FAFSA?
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    Seems right to me. Your family is in the upper income brackets. At what percent should the line be drawn? Take a look at what percent your family falls in terms of family income.

    I know the problem When a family is making a certain income, it looks for the best possible environment in terms of buying a home and living expenses become commensurate to income. Your dad is probably right when says that what he can pay is about $15K ayear for college, maybe a little more, let's say $20K. That's because it's what he is paying out right now for you for private school, and he has earmarked that amount out of income to pay for it. There's a good chance, and yes, I have seen this, that if you were not going to private school, that would have gone into the family pot and spent on things that require continual spending. Few people have the discipline to save.

    But your college costs are expected to be a combination of savings, income and loans. Past, present and future payments. You are also expected to be contributing. What can your parents pay out of savings? Do you have savings? My parents made all of us save for college when we were kids and they were very much lower income. I had a couple thousand saved and we are talking over 40 years ago. My kids, too, save their summer earnings, birthday and Christmas and other occaision monies. They have all worked summers during college and except for the oldest who was a NCAA athlete, held jobs during the school year. They also had the option of borrowing which up until now none took. We also borrowed as well as took out of our savings and of course, paid out of current income. Are still paying out of current income. We are down to one car, and cut expenses way down. It's a little better now, but a few years ago, I worked the food pantries and took home their left over food, cooked everything from scratch and removed lightbulbs from all but key areas of the house, and kept the thermostat on 55 for winters. Car pooled whenever I could and planned my trips with the car. I was able to squeeze more than $1000 a month out of the way we lived, but part of it was because we did have a lot of fat. No smart phones, no cable. And the kids out of school pitched in what they could too, because they knew it was the only way we could pay for college,stay in the house, and meet other expenses that arose. Oh, and my son was limited to $35K a year for what we could pay for college. He did not even look at schools that would need us to pay more. Off the table they all went, because he knew what are issues were and did not want to add to the financial squeeze any more than we had managed to eke out for him. Bear in mind that we are upper income, just like you and I fully know that poor planning and spending put us into the situation. An unrealistic thinking.

    Take a good look at how you live. You are iiving the good life, above and beyond what most people enjoy. That your parents did not step it down a notch and save more is not something that should be subsidized.

    So you and your parents see what savings you have, how much you can make this year--yeah, get a job NOW for weekends and after school. You are young; you can work multiple jobs this summer and slab it away. Some of my guys worked three jobs and gave private lessons to make $10K+ in a summer. It meant no beach trips, parites, fun like their friends were enjoying. They knew they needed the money for college. They found jobs at college. My son who is a college senior to graduate this spring works 20 hours a week and has worked his way up to a pretty lucrative job. My freshman lifeguards and doesn't do too badly either. Your family will have to economize as will you. And then they should look at what they feel they can realistically borrow. You have $5500 in Staffords you can borrow.

    That's how some of us do it.
  • NabianNabian Registered User Posts: 253 Junior Member
    My siblings are working, but not necessarily career-like jobs. My sister is the assistant director of the after school care program in the elementary/middle school where my mom works, my brother at home works for a wine selling/distribution company, and my other brother just took a new job as dean of students at a different elementary/middle school; he's currently a middle school teacher. While there are the two still living at home, they all file their own taxes so we figured we couldn't claim them as dependents on FAFSA.
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 32,545 Senior Member
    The EFC is not supposed to be taken out of current income only. It is supposed to be out of savings, income, and future earnings (loans). So 25% sounds like a lot, and it is, but it's not supposed to be JUST from this year's income.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered User Posts: 63,485 Senior Member
    I'm not a tax expert but unless your siblings are disabled, I'm not sure they can be declared as dependents if they have jobs...as I think they are too old.

    With an income in the $200K range, I would expect your EFC per FAFSA to be in the $50,000-$60,000 per year range.
    What the heck am I supposed to do?

    You need to find a college that your family can pay for. ND doesn't sound like it is financially feasible. Your parents have said they can pay $15,000. For freshman year, you can take out a Stafford loan of $5500. Depending on your state, there might be an instate option that is affordable with you working and perhaps a bit more money from your parents.

    Did you apply to any schools with guaranteed MERIT aid for your stats (since YOU saw that FAFSA and knew that need based aid was unlikely)? That would lessen the financial blow for your parents.

    If nothing else works out financially, you might want to take a gap year, do something during that time that is worthwhile, and craft a different list for freshman college admissions next year...that meet the financial needs of your family.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    With $15,000 a year straight from your parents, you can attend your in-state public schools and likely graduate debt-free. That is a huge gift, and one you should not take lightly. 90 percent of college students would love to be getting that kind of money from their parents.

    The fact is, at $200k, your family is among the top 3% in the U.S., in terms of household income. Whether it feels that way to you or not, it's an objective fact. (When you talk about your mother's $65,000 income going towards nothing but food and clothing... that should be a tip-off that you're well-off, because that's more than the majority of families have to spend on everything.) That your family does not want to spend more than $15,000 on college is a lifestyle choice, and colleges don't provide need-based aid based on lifestyle choices.

    Time to look at schools you can afford out-of-pocket - and there will be many!
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    I just read a thread where someone said a family with an income of $50k should have an EFC something like $3k. Doesn't that mean if FAFSA says our income is $200k, our EFC should be something around $12k-$20k?

    Well, no. These things aren't linear. A household with an income of $50,000 has to pay the same price as your family for a gallon of milk, a gallon of gasoline or a kilowatt of electricity. But these fixed expenses are a much larger percentage of $50,000 than they are of $200,000. For this reason, there's much "left over" for that family than there is for yours.

    I know. There isn't a lot left over in your household. Your parents aren't taking you to Barcelona in the summer, and they're not driving Jaguars. Your family is secure, but they're not waddling in dough. Neither is mine.

    But these facts are the cold, hard reality. Your family may be spending their money in excess of $50,000 on reasonable things, such as your tuition and support for your older siblings, but they're electing to do so. If you had gone to public high school, for example, there could be an additional $60,000 in your college savings.

    The good news, as Thumper suggested, is that if you're a competitive applicant for Notre Dame, there are a lot of colleges and universities that will offer you significant merit aid to attend. Do some research. You might find some that you really like. Good luck.
  • sleepyrainsleepyrain Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    An EFC of 3k is very little for an income of 50k. My EFC is 3.8k (which is after taking out 5.5k in loans) which may not seem a lot to you but it is to me considering that my family total income is about 18k for a family of four, that works out to be 21% EFC not including loans. On top of that, my sister is a university student as well. So I guess, to answer your question, a 25% EFC is not unreasonable.

    You said your father's income went into savings? That could be money worth investing in your education. If you really wanted to and your family was willing to sacrifice a little, I think they could afford to put you through the school of your choice. Based on your estimates, your parents income is 140k-150k after taxes, which gives your family a lot of leeway because after living expenses and whatnot they still have money in excess unlike families of lower income brackets. But you should talk to your parents about what they are able to provide for you, if they are unable to, I agree with the above posters I think you consider going somewhere your family can afford.

    And I agree, 15k a year from your parents is a blessing! :) That's almost as much as my family makes/spends a year.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,545 Senior Member
    Once your income is above a certain amount (maybe $100k) it seems that EFC is about 33%.

    Obviously, The EFCs of lower incomes would be MUCH LESS since most of their income must go to basic living expenses. As family income rises, they have more discretionary income (play money).

    Your parents are CHOOSING to still spend money on grown up kids rather than pay for your education. That's their choice, it's their money. However, a school isnt' going to give your family more money JUST SO your parents can still feed and provide for their older kids.

    Your parents need to make a decision...either telll your siblings that their checkbook is closed to them so that they can pay for your college costs....or continue to spend the way that they do and you go to a local state school.

    My dad's income is about $120k-$125k and he pays the bills, puts stuff into savings, etc. etc

    My mom's income is about $65k-$70k of that, and we use her income for food, clothes, etc. --no savings whatsoever except what comes out of her check beforehand.

    THIS IS AN AREA of a lot of waste. Who the heck WASTES this much money on clothes and food.. Your family is choosing be excessive spenders on food and clothing. That's a choice....not a necessity. :(
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 32,545 Senior Member
    ^^ For an 3.8k EFC at an $18k income, either you have to have substantial income, your parents need to have substantial assets (for that income level), or you have to have some fairly modest savings. Something doesn't seem right there...

    Edit: Wait, do you mean your FAFSA EFC was 38xx or the amount you were expected to pay was 38xx (after loans)? There is a huge difference between the two.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    The gap is $38,000, their EFC is $53K.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered User Posts: 82,545 Senior Member
    Did your family list your siblings as dependents on FAFSA?

    I just filled out the FA calculator/estimator for Notre Dame (my first choice by miles) in just a few minutes using whatever I could remember just to see what it would say, and it said we should expect a gap of $41k after scholarships, grants, work-study and student loans.

    Well, it's not really a gap. A gap is when "need" isn't met. Your "need" was met. ND determined that you don't have much "need". I can't help but wonder how much your family thought ND would charge a family that earns $200k? your family knew that it could only afford $15k...did it REALLY think that ND would expect a family with your income to pay so LITTLE???

    Where did your siblings go to college? How were their costs paid for???
  • sleepyrainsleepyrain Registered User Posts: 25 New Member
    @romanigypsyeyes Whoops my bad. I meant my expected contribution on my Financial Aid/My Awards from the school of my choice. My FAFSA EFC was 0. Sorry for the confusion. I think there is a difference, right?
  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 32,545 Senior Member
    Yes, a big difference for federal grants.
This discussion has been closed.