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I'm asking this for a friend.  I have never filled out the CSS (thank goodness!).  I understand it is more intrusive than the FAFSA.


Friend's FAFSA EFC is $19,000.  CSS EFC is $10,000.


Friend is surprised at the large difference and we both would have expected CSS > FAFSA.  Friend thinks they filled something out incorrectly on FAFSA but has no clue what that might be. 


Any thoughts?



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CSS can take a primary home into account (as available money to pay for college) which the FAFSA doesn't.


I'm hoping to avoid CSS schools because when I run the NPCs on CSS schools, I always seem to have much higher EFCs, as much as $12,000 more than FAFSA schools.


If you have a house where property values are high, I imagine the impact is worse. And if a family is on the lower end of the income scale but owns their house, it really hurts.


But your friend seems to be in the opposite situation. Could your friend have a high mortgage?

Edited by Tiramisu
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answered in the x-post, copying my answer here


The CSS uses a different formula, considering more things than the FAFSA. What all is asked for depends on the school. There is more personalized information, and I would assume that the purpose is to create a more accurate picture of the family's actual financial situation.

So they calculated a different EFC based on their data and formula. (Not sure whether the formula itself is school specific, or just the data gathered.)


I don't see any reason why the CSS number should automatically be greater than the FAFSA - it asks about the value of the house, how much you own, your medical cost, and you can list extenuating circumstances like parents in a nursing home. Lots more data to be considered, compared with the FAFSA/


If the CSS would always come to the same result as the FAFSA, the CSS would be unnecessary.

Edited by regentrude
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The CSS doesn't tell you an official EFC. Are they estimating their EFC with the college board's EFC estimator or a college NPC? A lower net price at a CSS school could just mean the school meets a higher percentage of need, not that the EFC was lower.


The main reasons CSS EFC could be lower:


1. They rent (home equity is a biggie on the CSS)

2. No divorce or family owned business

3. Low assets for their income level

4. Live in a state that gets a higher cost of living adjustment on the CSS (FAFSA does no COL adjustments)


The more of the above that apply, the more likely the CSS EFC is correctly lower.


In terms of double checking FAFSA was done correctly, the Edvisors Guide is excellent


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I will add that the CSS varies depending on the schools on your list. If I recall correctly there questions that are triggered by certain schools. So there can't really be a single "CSS EFC" because it depends on the questions asked.

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