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College Affordability and Preparedness

Deciphering Financial Aid Award Letters

For many families, award letters can be the deciding factor of which school the student will attend. Here are some key terms you’ll need to understand:

  • Award Letter: An offer sent from a college to the student that details how much financial support the student is eligible for.
  • Cost of Attendance (or COA): A figure provided by colleges that estimates the total costs of attending that school for a period of one year. Often included are tuition, room and board, books and supplies, personal expenses, and transportation.
  • Expected Family Contribution (or EFC): This number results from information you provide in your FAFSA. Your EFC is the amount of money that your family is expected to contribute to college costs for one year. It takes into consideration family income, assets, size of current household, and the number of family members currently enrolled in college.

The award letter will include the types of finanical aid being offered, including scholarship and grants, federal work study, and federal student loan, as well as the expected family contribution.

And don’t forget, you can appeal the decision of your financial aid package if special circumstances have arisen, such as recent unemployment of a family member, changes in the family incomes, or death or divorce.

Ultimately you will need to carefully weigh your academic needs against the financial obligations and choose responsibly to avoid excessive debt after graduation.

If you have questions about your financial aid award, or your family circumstances have changed, contact the financial aid office.

Scott Patterson, CEO, Credit Union Student Choice, [email protected]

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