Determining Need

The primary responsibility for financing an undergraduate college education rests with students and their parents. For graduate students, the responsibility rests with students and, if applicable, their spouses. Eligibility for financial aid is based on the following formula:

Cost of Attendance
- Expected Family Contribution
- Scholarships/Other Resources (includes any awards from agencies other than Student Financial Services)
= Need for financial aid

The Cost of Attendance (COA), which is determined each year by the University's Board of Visitors and Student Financial Services, represents the estimated total cost of attending the University for one year. COA includes direct charges, such as tuition, housing, dining, and fees, as well as indirect costs like books and supplies, living expenses, and travel money.

The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated using federal guidelines and University policies and is based on information submitted on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and additional documents submitted to UVA. The EFC has a parent and a student component. The parents' and student's contributions are based on their income and assets, which include cash, checking, savings, and money market accounts; their investments and real estate holdings other than their primary residence; their untaxed income; and their business equity.

The financial aid offer that students receive from UVA lists the types and amounts of grants, work-study, loans, and scholarships awarded. UVA will meet 100% of students' demonstrated need through a combination of grants (from federal, state, and institutional sources), federal need-based loans, and federal work-study. See a list of items that may impact a financial aid award below.


Two important things to note:

  1. The total amount of financial aid students receive, including outside resources such as scholarships, cannot exceed their cost of attending the University.
  2. It is possible for students' EFC to be greater than their cost of attending the University; in this case, they do not demonstrate eligibility for need-based financial aid. However, financial aid programs such as the unsubsidized Federal Direct Loan, the Direct (Parent) PLUS Loan, and alternative loans, are available to students regardless of their financial need.


Divorced or Separated Parents of Undergraduate Students

Please be aware that it is UVA’s philosophy that, to the extent they are able, both biological parents share a responsibility to help pay for the education of their dependent children.  A parent’s unwillingness to contribute is not necessarily grounds for a waiver of the Profile application. In cases where a divorced custodial parent has remarried, stepparent information is also required.

Independent Undergraduate Students

The federal financial aid program defines some applicants as self-supporting independent students. Students are considered independent for federal aid purposes when they meet one or more of the following definitions:

they are 24 years of age or older
they are graduate or professional students
they are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces
they are an orphan, foster child or a ward of the court
they are legally married
they are currently serving on active duty for purposes other than training
they are emancipated or under a legal guardianship
they have legal dependents other than a spouse for whom they provide more than half the support
they have a child for whom they provide more than half the support
they are a homeless unaccompanied youth

Undergraduate students cannot declare themselves independent of their parents due to family disagreement, living arrangements, or parents' unwillingness to contribute to the costs of their education. Follow this link for more information about completing the FAFSA as an independent student.

In most cases, independent students for whom the costs of attending the University are high are offered additional federal loan awards.

Reevaluation of Expected Family Contribution

Student Financial Services wants to be responsive to unique family situations, within the limits of federal regulations and University policies. We will consider an Appeal for Reconsideration when:

  • A family experiences a change in their financial situation, such as death of a parent or unemployment; or
  • A family has an extenuating circumstance or hardship that was not addressed in the initial review.
Appeal for Reconsideration

If you have circumstances you believe should be evaluated, please review our Appeals for Reconsideration page to determine if you are eligible to file an appeal.

Items That May Impact/Reduce Your Award


  • IRA or pension distributions (excluding rollovers in base year)

  • Capital gains

  • Business draws not included as taxable income

  • Support from family members (untaxed income)

  • Parent’s remarriage

  • S-corp, Corp and/or partnership distributions


  • Fewer members in the household size

  • Fewer students in college

  • Students attending graduate or professional school

  • Students not attending eligible title IV school

  • A sibling turning 24, even if that sibling still receives parental support

Assets and Investments

  • Acquisition of assets or investments

  • Moving out of primary residence but still owning the home

  • Parent’s remarriage

FAQs for the Fall 2020 Term

If I make changes regarding my housing accommodations, will UVA continue to meet my demonstrated financial need? 

Yes, demonstrated need will continue to be met at 100%.  Need is determined by this formula: Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need.  UVA’s commitment continues regardless of changes to housing or dining, as long as a student continues to be enrolled at least half time adn remains otherwise eligible to receive financial aid.

In the equation above, if COA is lower, then need will be lower. If you don't have direct housing costs, your COA will be decreased, in turn decreasing your need.  If demonstrated need increases due to a decision to move from living at home, for example, to living in an apartment in Charlottesville, so will financial aid; and if demonstrated need decreases due to a decision to stay at home rather than move into University housing, so will financial aid.


How specifically might my financial aid change if my COA changes?

Students who were planning to live on-Grounds or in Charlottesville/Albemarle County but who now decide they will live away from Charlottesville, who do not have housing costs in Charlottesville, and who have financial aid should expect to see adjustments to their financial aid for the fall term based upon a reduced cost of fees, housing, and travel. These adjustments may be made as soon as late August or early September, once the August 24th deadline for housing decisions has passed.

The housing cost of attendance for those planning to live on-Grounds or in Charlottesville/Albemarle County will not change, but fees and travel may change.

As noted above, need is determined by this formula: Cost of Attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need.  If your EFC initially exceeds your COA (such that need is actually a negative number), or if your Need is initially very modest, it’s possible that any change in your COA will have little to no impact on the aid you are offered.  Where the impact tends to be the most noticeable is when a student is receiving Access UVA or similar need-based grant aid (see this page for a full listing of Access-type funds:  Because UVA’s need-based grant funding is the “last dollar” used to meet need, after all other sources of aid are taken into account, UVA funds are also the first ones to be adjusted when need decreases.  So if you’re receiving Access UVA or similar funding, and your COA (and thus need) decreases, your Access-type funding is likely to decrease as well.