How We Determine Need

Student Financial Services completes a holistic assessment of your family's financial circumstances to determine your financial need. 

To determine your demonstrated financial need, Penn reviews the financial information you supply via the FAFSA, CSS Profile, Penn Financial Aid Supplement, and other supporting financial documents. This assessment leads to a calculated Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Your EFC is the amount that you and your family are expected to contribute toward the overall cost of your education each year.

Federal and Institutional Methodologies

Penn uses both a federal and institutional methodology to calculate an EFC for all families who submit a completed application for financial aid. Federal methodology is assessed by the federal government, which uses the information you submit on your FAFSA to calculate an EFC that assists in determining eligibility for need-based federal funding, such as the Pell Grant, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), and the Federal Work-Study Program.

State grant funding eligibility is determined by the completion of the FAFSA and other supplemental forms required by each state agency. This varies by state. Eligibility is determined by the state agency and then submitted to the educational institution.

Penn uses an institutional methodology to determine your eligibility for additional institutional grant funding beyond the federal or state funding you may receive. Institutional methodology takes a broader view of your family’s financial strength utilizing information that you provide on the CSS Profile and the Penn Financial Aid Supplement.

Penn considers the following factors when determining your Expected Family Contribution:

  • Family income
  • A percentage of parent and student assets (varies by source)
    • This includes value of current home, investments, other real estate, business or farm value, and savings
  • Taxes paid
  • Family size
  • Number of siblings enrolled in college
  • Other taxable or untaxable income
  • Special circumstances (i.e., severe family health issues, changes in marital status of biological parents, death in the family, etc.)

Non-Custodial Parents

In cases where parents are divorced or separated, Penn expects both parents to participate in paying for a student’s education. In order to be considered for institutional grant-based funding, Penn requires financial information from both parents, which is factored into the total Parent Contribution. The non-custodial parent must complete the Non-Custodial Parent form on the College Board website. Families experiencing extenuating circumstances can write a letter of appeal documenting the time of separation or divorce, history of child support payments, frequency of contact, and any other pertinent information. Families should also supply any available third-party documentation from someone like a high school counselor, attorney, or clergy member.

Student Contribution

Institutional methodology for the Student Contribution includes a portion of any assets that you report, as well as an expectation that you will contribute funds each year that you have saved from summer earnings. Please see below for the standard summer savings expectation (SSE) per grade level:

First-year $3,000
Sophomore $3,200
Junior $3,200
Senior $3,200

Affording Your EFC

Please note that Penn expects families to use all options available to them to finance their Expected Family Contribution. Some families choose to meet all or a portion of their EFC with a federal or private loan, or by budgeting expenses throughout the academic year using the Penn Payment Plan.