What Is EFC (SAI) and How Does It Affect Financial Aid?

Jan 2
The months leading up to your first year of college are incredibly exciting. Between shopping for your dorm room essentials and spending the summer with friends, preparing for your first day of college can be a very empowering experience. Thinking about the cost of college and what you and your family may have to pay for the next four years may not be as thrilling.

While there are many options for you and your family to consider when determining how to fund your education, understanding your eligibility for federal financial aid is a good place to start. This process begins by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA®. Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is an output of the FAFSA that colleges and financial aid offices use to determine your eligibility for financial aid.

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that the EFC was recently replaced with a new metric called the Student Aid Index, or SAI, which will be in effect for the 2024-2025 award year. The shift from EFC to SAI is just one of the many changes implemented as part of the FAFSA Simplification Act. For most students and families, your SAI and EFC will be similar; it’s just a shift in terminology to bring more transparency to the process.

Continue reading to learn what EFC is, the differences between EFC and SAI, and the role these metrics play in determining financial aid eligibility.

What Does EFC Mean on FAFSA?

The EFC, or SAI, is a metric used during the FAFSA application process to help determine your eligibility for federal financial aid. The EFC/SAI is calculated based on your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and other benefits (like unemployment or social security). Once you have completed the FAFSA, you will receive a FAFSA Submission Summary containing your EFC/SAI. Your school will then use this metric to determine your eligibility for federal student aid, such as scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs.

If this is your first time applying for the FAFSA, or you want a refresher on what to expect, check out our blogs on how FAFSA works.

What is SAI, and How Does SAI Affect FAFSA?

Like the EFC, the Student Aid Index (SAI) is a metric used to help calculate a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid. The SAI is included in the FAFSA Submission Summary students receive from the federal government after submitting the FAFSA.

Contrary to what “Expected Family Contribution” suggested previously, the SAI is not the amount a family is expected to contribute. It’s a financial eligibility metric.

When Will SAI Replace EFC?

The SAI will replace the EFC beginning in the 2024-2025 award year as one of the many changes implemented under the FAFSA Simplification Act. There will be no choice between SAI and EFC; the FAFSA will default to SAI.

How is SAI Calculated

Your SAI is calculated based on several factors, including your and your parent’s income, assets, taxes, and demographics. While your SAI does not determine your eligibility for financial aid on its own, it does help colleges identify students with greater financial need. A lower SAI may increase the amount of need-based aid you are eligible to receive, while a higher SAI may result in a lower amount of financial aid. The lowest possible SAI is -1,500.

The shift from EFC to the SAI changed three main factors in how federal financial aid eligibility is calculated:

  • The EFC considered how many children a family has in college simultaneously, which the SAI no longer includes. 
  • The EFC included a Small Business Exclusion that was eliminated in the SAI. 
  • The EFC Family Farm Exclusion has been modified. However, the SAI still allows the net worth of the family farm to be excluded as an asset in some circumstances. 

What Does My SAI (EFC) Number Mean?

Your SAI/EFC is a measure of financial strength colleges and financial aid offices use to determine eligibility for federal financial aid. Think of it as a rating that helps assess your need-based eligibility compared to other students. Generally, students with a lower SAI may qualify for more federal financial aid, while students with higher SAIs may qualify for less.   

Why is SAI (EFC) Important?

It’s important to complete the FAFSA and provide the information needed to calculate your SAI. This metric is how your school will determine your eligibility for federal financial aid, including federal loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study programs. Students eligible for more federal financial aid may have fewer education expenses to cover out of pocket.

Learn More with Ascent

Understanding the process and staying ahead of FAFSA deadlines are great starting points in securing the funds you need to achieve your academic goals. From financial wellness resources to budgeting tips, there is no shortage of information to help you make informed financial decisions.  

If you’ve maximized your options for federal financial aid and find out the funds aren’t enough to cover your total education expenses, don’t be deterred. Ascent offers a variety of undergraduate student loans to help propel you on your path to higher education. Learn more about ourcosigned student loans, or check your rates today without impacting your credit score. 

FAQs

What does SAI mean in financial aid?

SAI stands for Student Aid Index, a metric used to help determine eligibility for federal financial aid during the FAFSA application process. The SAI was introduced as a replacement for the EFC beginning in the 2024-2025 award year to help minimize confusion around the meaning of “Expected Family Contribution.” 

Is SAI better than EFC?

The SAI is not necessarily better or worse than the EFC. However, SAI more accurately depicts its use in the FAFSA process. In most cases, the amount of financial aid a student would be eligible for using either metric would be the same. Any differences in eligibility would be due to the unique family circumstances addressed in the FAFSA Simplification Act. 

How do I find my SAI?

Your SAI is part of your FAFSA Submission Summary upon completion of the FAFSA. Using tools like theFederal Student Aid Estimator, you can estimate your SAI without submitting the FAFSA. 


As current and former students, we provide free resources to help you throughout your education, which may include links to third-party websites (where security and privacy policies may differ from Ascent’s). For our full disclaimer, please click here.