Many people asked, after my last post, how EFC gets calculated or divided with multiple children in college. It’s not a strict 50/50 division; some adjustments get made first.

First is how the formulas work. Below is the Income Protection Allowance table from the current EFC Formula Guide. As you can see, the numbers vary based on Number in parents’ household (the row headers) and Number of college students in the household (the column headers).

Each additional member of the household yields a slightly larger allowance. However, each additional student reduces the allowance. Many people find this confusing because they expect EFC to decrease based on multiple children. That’s when you need to remember that EFC is Expected FamilyContribution, not Expected Student Contribution. The EFC is the amount the family should expect to be paying out of pocket each year. With multiple college students, that number will increase slightly– by about $1,500 assuming the incremental income gets assessed at 47%. However, colleges know that the family is dividing that EFC among the number of students in college.

The Profile adjusts similarly; it also asks whether the siblings are attending public or private universities. Though there’s no specific formula for it, assume that a private school will expect to capture at least 60% of the family’s EFC (as calculated by the Profile) if the family has two college students. Public schools generally consider the EFC to be equally divided between the students. Note that this math for a family with two college students where one student attends a public and the other a private will result in at least 110% of EFC.

And again, because there isn’t one formula for dividing EFC between schools, your best bet is to use the school’s net price calculator or, if you’ve already received a financial aid offer, contact the school directly to ask how siblings might impact the award.

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What if you have a current HS freshman and an 8th grader who will be a HS freshman in fall 2020-2021? My base income year for my daughter would be 2021 and I would have to say that she is the only one in college for 2023. Is there a place to indicate that next year (not her base year) that there will be 2 in college? Or do I just handle it when I file my son’s base year FAFSA in 2022 and in her second FAFSA form for her sophmore college year? Thank you.

You’ll fill out a new FAFSA every year, so when the time comes that you have two in college you’ll report it on that year’s FAFSA. I do think it’s helpful to do net price calculators with every possible combination of students you’ll have in college at any one time. In your case you’d want to know if your daughter would get additional aid in the years when she and her brother are both in college. And likewise if your son gets generous aid offers, you’ll want to verify whether those are likely to continue through all four years or just in the years when you have two in school.

The college net price calculators ask how many siblings will be in college at the same time as the student for whom the calculator is being used. If there will be two children in college at the same time should the answer to the number of siblings be “1”?

We will have two kids in college next year (2 out of 2). When we enter “1” in the net price calculator our net price ends up being nearly double the amount of our EFC for each kid. Confusing!!

I did the Fafsa for 2 of my kids. One EFC says 106,191 and the other says 47,497. All of the information is the same except the one with the higher EFC works on the school breaks and has about 12,000 in a savings account. I thought the EFC is split equally when 2 siblings are in college.

Hmm. The student’s $12,000 should not add $60,000 to your EFC– more like $2400. The EFC gets divided between the students so it looks like in one case that’s not happening.

I just filled out the FAFSA for my two kids one will be a college freshman and one a college senior in 21-22. It only allowed for my 2019 IRS 1040 to upload. It did not have an option for the 2020 which was less AGI by about 50K. Any suggestions?

The FAFSA only captures “prior-prior” year tax data, so it will only take 2019’s tax return. You’ll need to reach out directly to your kids’ schools to appeal on the basis of a change of income. This is a normal practice and they do expect families to contact them in the event of a change of circumstances, especially a reduction in income.

I have twins entering college in the 2022-2023 school year. I just completed my daughter’s FAFSA. The email confirmation I received shows a EFC = 009519. Do you know what that means? Also I will be completing my sons in the next few days. We are just waiting on him to finalize which schools to list that he will be applying to. Should his EFC be the same as my daughter’s or will it end up being different?

That is saying that your daughter’s EFC is $9,519. Your son’s should be about the same unless he has additional income or assets that your daughter doesn’t (or vice versa). You can transfer your data from one child’s FAFSA to the other’s to simplify things; however, I’ve only been able to get that to work when I’ve done both in the same session (I have twins too).

That is awesome, twins are the best :-). Thank you so much. Their assets are pretty much the same so I’m assuming they would be about the same. I wasn’t sure how it all worked if you had more than one college bound kid.

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What if you have a current HS freshman and an 8th grader who will be a HS freshman in fall 2020-2021? My base income year for my daughter would be 2021 and I would have to say that she is the only one in college for 2023. Is there a place to indicate that next year (not her base year) that there will be 2 in college? Or do I just handle it when I file my son’s base year FAFSA in 2022 and in her second FAFSA form for her sophmore college year? Thank you.

You’ll fill out a new FAFSA every year, so when the time comes that you have two in college you’ll report it on that year’s FAFSA. I do think it’s helpful to do net price calculators with every possible combination of students you’ll have in college at any one time. In your case you’d want to know if your daughter would get additional aid in the years when she and her brother are both in college. And likewise if your son gets generous aid offers, you’ll want to verify whether those are likely to continue through all four years or just in the years when you have two in school.

The college net price calculators ask how many siblings will be in college at the same time as the student for whom the calculator is being used. If there will be two children in college at the same time should the answer to the number of siblings be “1”?

We will have two kids in college next year (2 out of 2). When we enter “1” in the net price calculator our net price ends up being nearly double the amount of our EFC for each kid. Confusing!!

The wording on so much of this stuff is terrible!

I did the Fafsa for 2 of my kids. One EFC says 106,191 and the other says 47,497. All of the information is the same except the one with the higher EFC works on the school breaks and has about 12,000 in a savings account. I thought the EFC is split equally when 2 siblings are in college.

Hmm. The student’s $12,000 should not add $60,000 to your EFC– more like $2400. The EFC gets divided between the students so it looks like in one case that’s not happening.

I just filled out the FAFSA for my two kids one will be a college freshman and one a college senior in 21-22. It only allowed for my 2019 IRS 1040 to upload. It did not have an option for the 2020 which was less AGI by about 50K. Any suggestions?

The FAFSA only captures “prior-prior” year tax data, so it will only take 2019’s tax return. You’ll need to reach out directly to your kids’ schools to appeal on the basis of a change of income. This is a normal practice and they do expect families to contact them in the event of a change of circumstances, especially a reduction in income.

I have twins entering college in the 2022-2023 school year. I just completed my daughter’s FAFSA. The email confirmation I received shows a EFC = 009519. Do you know what that means? Also I will be completing my sons in the next few days. We are just waiting on him to finalize which schools to list that he will be applying to. Should his EFC be the same as my daughter’s or will it end up being different?

That is saying that your daughter’s EFC is $9,519. Your son’s should be about the same unless he has additional income or assets that your daughter doesn’t (or vice versa). You can transfer your data from one child’s FAFSA to the other’s to simplify things; however, I’ve only been able to get that to work when I’ve done both in the same session (I have twins too).

That is awesome, twins are the best :-). Thank you so much. Their assets are pretty much the same so I’m assuming they would be about the same. I wasn’t sure how it all worked if you had more than one college bound kid.