Paying for college can be major challenge


College students all over the country are paying anywhere between $20,000  and $50,000 (sometimes more) to go to school and graduate with their desired degree.

Where are all these people getting this money, right? Students have different ways to pay for college. Some enjoy full rides, meaning their tuition is paid for in full. Others receive Pell grants and other grants, while some take out loans and still others work their way through and pay out of pocket.

Students who receive any assistance have to apply to Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) before every school year. FASFA gathers information about the student and their family to determine how it can assist the student.

“I don’t think FASFA understands that there are many variables in our lives. What it may look like on paper does not determine what it is in real life,” said Jada Williams a public relations student at Florida A&M University.

At the end of a student’s application, FASFA gives an estimate on what it believes the student might be able to receive from their school. In that estimate there is something called an EFC, or Expected Family Contribution. EFC is the amount of money FASFA believes a student’s family would contribute to their schooling for the year. If a student's EFC is too high they will not be considered for a Pell grant.

A student who is under the age 24 and does not have a baby is considered to be a dependent student. So whatever money they are eligible for comes from how much their parent or guardian makes.

“EFC is not fair. My parents make a lot of money. However, they do not help me financially. I have to pay for my own bills, food, gas, etc., and since I can’t get any grants I also have to figure out how I will pay for tuition now too,” said Rebecca Gawel, a senior at Florida State University.

According to EFC is a measure of your family’s financial strength and is calculated according to a formula established by law. Your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, and benefits (such as unemployment or Social Security) are all considered in the formula.  Also considered are your family size and the number of family members who will attend college during the year.

A FAMU financial aid office employee said a student whose EFC is high but cannot receive financial assistance from their family can fill out a “special circumstance” application and the necessary documentation to prove why their family cannot contribute.

According to, in 2011-2012 9.4 million students received some type of Pell grant. That number dropped just a few years later in 2016-2017 when 7.1 million students received a Pell grant.

Should what a student’s parents income is determine how much assistance the student should be able to receive, or should there be other ways of figuring out a student’s specific situation?