COA, EFC, and Need

Cost of Attendance (COA)

A student's total cost of attending a postsecondary institution for a specified period of time, as established by law. The COA includes tuition and fees; room and board (or an allowance for housing and food); a reasonable cost for the documented rental or purchase of a personal computer that the student will use for study for the enrollment period; an allowance for books, supplies, transportation, loan fees, and dependent care (if applicable); disability-related expenses; a one-time allowable cost of obtaining the first professional credential in a program requiring professional licensure or certification; and some miscellaneous expenses as well.

Effective Family Contribution (EFC)

A comparative measure, determined according to a need analysis formula specified by law, of how much the student and his or her family can be expected to contribute to the cost of the student's education for an award year. This figure is used to determine an applicant's eligibility for federal student aid. The EFC figure is shown on the SAR and ISIR received after completing the FAFSA.


The difference between a student's cost of attendance (COA) and what the student's family is able to pay—the expected family contribution (EFC). The cost of attendance minus the expected family contribution equals the student's financial need. Also see need analysis.