Determining Financial Aid Eligibility

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Defining Financial Aid Eligibility

Financial aid eligibility can be defined as the difference between the Cost of Attendance (COA or Budget) and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

  • Colleges determine their COA. The budget includes tuition/fees, books & supplies, room & board, transportation and personal miscellaneous costs.
  • The Federal Student Aid determines the EFC of each student.

If a student is independent, the EFC is based entirely on the student's, and spouse's (if applicable) income and assets. If a student is dependent, the student's and parent's income and assets are included in the needs analysis that determines the EFC. The following link provides a detailed explanation of dependent versus independent status

Example of the federal formula for determining financial aid eligibility:

Cost of Attendance $25,414
 Minus EFC $  -2,000
=Total financial need $23,414


The Financial Aid & Scholarship Office will try to meet students financial need through a variety of programs, including grants, scholarships, loans and/or work-study. In some cases, it is not possible to fully meet a student's need. In such cases, you may want to consult with a financial aid representative to explore alternative options.

The EFC is also used to determine grant eligibility. For example, to be eligible for a 2016-17 Pell Grant, the EFC cannot exceed $5,234. Another example, to be eligible for the 2016-17 State University Grant, the EFC cannot exceed $5,000, and all financial aid documents must be received by the file completion date indicated in the Acknowledgement Letter.

View Types of Aid and grants information for detailed grant criteria.

In addition to your EFC, the Financial Aid and Scholarship Office must also take into consideration any other financial/educational resources available to the student. These can include Cal Grants, various fee waivers, scholarships, vocational rehabilitation benefits, resident hall advisor stipend, foundation stipends, etc. These resources will reduce your eligibility for other forms of financial aid.

Students are required by law to report to the Financial Aid & Scholarship Office any additional financial resources that are received so that awards may be adjusted in accordance with federal and state regulations. Failure to do so can result in very severe penalties.

Sequence of Awards

Grants and scholarships are awarded first, assuming qualifications are met, and availability of funds. Any remaining financial need eligibility will be met with a combination of work-study, loans, or both depending on the student's preference, as indicated on their FAFSA.