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What Does My FAFSA Student Aid Index (SAI) Number Mean?

By Cait Williams

Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Posted: February 29th, 2024
What Does My FAFSA Student Aid Index (SAI) Number Mean?

The Student Aid Index is a new way of calculating a student’s level of need. This change has come about as part of Federal Student Aid’s (FSA)new attempts to simplify the entire financial aid process. The SAI will replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Read more below to find out what’s changed!

What is the SAI?

The Student Aid Index (SAI) is an eligibility index number that is used by your college or university’s financial aid office to determine how much financial aid you are eligible for. When you fill out the FAFSA, you will provide all the information that is needed to calculate this number. 

It’s important to note that the SAI has replaced  the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). The SAI still serves the purpose of helping colleges assess the financial need of the students but the updated methodology and formula give colleges more insight especially for students with special circumstances. 

How is the SAI calculated?

The SAI is calculated by looking at your total income and assets. Depending on whether you are a dependent or independent student for the FAFSA, your SAI may also include your parents income and assets or a spouse’s income and assets. To calculate this number, the SAI takes into account:

  • Adjusted gross income (AGI)
  • Deductible patents to SEP/SIMPLE/KEOGH/Other 
  • Tax-exempt interest
  • Untaxed portions of IRA distributions and pensions (excluding rollovers)
  • Foreign income exclusion

What is different about the SAI?

The SAI will not consider the number of other students in the household who are in college.

The actual number you receive will be different than that which the EFC would have given you. The SAI can be as low as -1,500, whereas the lowest EFC was 0. We will add a few example calculations below for you to better understand what that means. 

How do colleges use your SAI number?

Colleges will use your SAI number to see what your need is and what financial aid they can provide to you to help close that gap. While this is how your financial need will be determined, it does not mean that the school you are applying to, or currently enrolled at, has to provide you with that full amount.

Using your SAI

Let’s look at an example! Let’s say that your cost of attendance is $34,000 and the SAI number you received is $7,500. You can calculate your financial need by using the equation below.

Cost of attendance (COA) – SAI number = Financial need

$34,000 (COA) – $7,500 (SAI) = $26,500 

What happens if you get a negative number though? Let’s look at one more example! Let’s say for example that you received a $-1,200 SAI number and the cost of attendance at your school is $24,000.

Cost of attendance (COA) – SAI number = Financial need

$24,000 (COA) ($-1,200) SAI = $25,200

In this case your financial need is actually greater than that of your cost of attendance. This doesn’t mean however, that a college is responsible for meeting that full number. It simply gives them a clear view of your financial situation.

Don’t miss: What is demonstrated financial need?

What does the SAI mean for me as a student?

The goal of the SAI was to help simplify the FAFSA and also help colleges identify students with the greatest financial need. The EFC only allowed students to receive the lowest number of zero. However, because the SAI can go into the negatives, students can be further categorized to show who requires the absolute most need.

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • The Student Aid Index is a number that your FAFSA will calculate to help colleges determine your level of need
  • The SAI is part of the FAFSA Simplification Act that has been implemented to replace the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) 
  • The SAI was designed to help further categorize students by their level of need and hopefully be an easier number for students and parents to understand
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about the Student Aid Index (SAI)

What is the lowest Student Aid Index number?

The lowest SAI number may be a negative number, but never less than -1,500.

What is the difference between EFC and SAI?

The Student Aid Index (SAI) is a calculation that replaces the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) when awarding need-based financial aid.

Do you want a low SAI?

If you need financial aid,  a lower SAI usually increases the amount of need-based aid you are eligible for

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