What is financial aid gapping?



Financial Aid

MIchelle Kretzschmar

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What does it mean?

When students submit their financial aid application, they receive a number they are expected to pay called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). When you subtract the EFC from the total cost of attendance for a specific college, the amount left over is considered the student’s financial need. If a college’s financial aid award doesn’t cover all of the student’s need, the student has been “gapped.” Gapping refers to colleges not covering 100% of students’ financial need.

How does it affect how much you pay for college?

Gapping means that families should consider their EFC the minimum amount they will pay for college instead of the maximum. There are only around 80 colleges that claim to meet 100% of students’ need. These are among the most competitive colleges in the country with admission rates usually below 30%. Therefore, most students should expect to be “gapped.”
Some college are more likely to gap students than others. Sometimes, this is a matter of financial aid priorities. One school may decide to use more of its financial aid for merit aid to target high performing students while another may focus on meeting financial need. Students who have a low EFC need to apply to schools most likely to meet their need.
Low-income students can look up the average net price by income category for specific colleges at CollegeNavigotor. You can also look up the average percentage of need met on college search websites that use the common data set.

Where can you learn more?

What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but Should)

The Real Deal on Financial Aid

Managing the financial aid gap

NACUBO’s Misleading Spin on Merit Aid

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